Special Olympics produce medals, memories

Celebrity snowshoe race in Calgary, Alberta February 26, 2024. (Submitted: Todd Korol/Special Olympics Canada)

Enthusiastic crowds lifted Team New Brunswick to personal best performances and a total of 23 medals at the 2024 Winter Special Olympics, which recently wrapped up in Calgary.

“Everybody in the crowd, like all family, friends who came in the stadium, it’s a really cool feeling,” said Emma Stone, the program director for Team New Brunswick and chef de mission for the games. “There’s definitely pressure when people are watching you and cheering you on. I think it also helps encourage you to win.” 

“It pushes you to do your best.”

Over five days ending on March 2, Team New Brunswick collected 11 gold, five silver and seven bronze medals at the games held in Calgary, which also hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics.

“I’ll give a shout-out to our curling team, they pulled it with the last rock to win gold,” Stone said. 

She also singled out the gold medal-winning bowling team.

“The bowling alley is always a fun venue to be at because you just hear the bowling balls going and everybody’s cheering.”

The games attracted over 1,000 athletes, coaches and support staff from across Canada and more than 2,500 spectators.

Since this was the first Special Olympic Games held since the COVID-19 pandemic, staging them was a challenge, said Karen Dommett, the general manager of the Special Olympic Games.

“I truly don’t think any other community could have pulled together and delivered these games under this timeline.” 

For Team New Brunswick, the buildup to the games involved qualifying for regional, provincial and national qualifiers up to three years before the Calgary games. 

The team consisted of 50 athletes who competed in six different sports: five-pin bowling, snowshoeing, speed skating, curling, floor hockey and figure skating. 

Still of the Special Olympics New Brunswick team. (Submitted: Special O Canada)

“They all train really hard leading up to the games,” Stone said. 

Although the majority of the team hails from Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton, athletes from Woodstock, Bathurst and Tracadie also represented the province.

Stone said being a part of the buildup to the games and the whole experience as a member of Team New Brunswick has been unforgettable. 

“It’s a huge honour to be chef de mission for our team and making sure that everybody has what they need and to be able to cheer everyone on,” she said.

“I feel so lucky also to be part of the Special Olympics organization and the Special Olympics movement as well.”