Four Dofasco Skating Club Special Olympics Figure Skating program athletes earned spots on the Special Olympics World Winter Games podium this month.
Team Canada members David Robertson, Sara McKelvie, Jessica Young and Tim Goodacre picked up a combined seven medals on the ice at the games Jan. 29 to Feb. 5 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
“When we started (the program) 16 years ago, we had no idea this would happen; to be able to come up with four athletes going to the worlds is basically out of this world and it’s a reflection of the dedication of not only the executive, but also the coaches and the quality of coaching,” co-chair Frank Sullivan said. “To see the athletes get to that point and for the families to enjoy that is what it’s all about. We couldn’t be more happy for the athletes.”
Robertson, 31, earned silver medals in singles and dance, McKelvie, 16, picked up golds in singles and dance, Young, 20, scored a silver medal in pairs and Goodacre, 28, earned bronze in singles and silver in pairs.
“Getting two silver medals felt great,” Robertson said of his second trip to the international event, having won two golds previously. “Second’s good. I’m really happy with how it went and I’m very proud.”
For McKelvie, the trip was a first.
“I felt so emotional,” she said. “I cried. I was really happy and surprised.”
The Special Olympics World Winter Games featured more than 3,000 athletes from 112 countries competing in figure skating, alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, floor hockey, short track speed skating, snowboarding and snowshoeing. Team Canada earned 24 of a possible 25 medals in figure skating at the games.
Robertson, McKelvie, Young and Goodacre qualified for the worlds after they skated to gold medals in their respective events at the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games earlier last year in St. Albert, Alta.
“The worlds was a great experience,” Robertson said. “I got to catch up with old friends that I hadn’t seen in while. I also had a chance to meet new people from all over the globe.”
McKelvie said the event was “amazing” all-around.
“I enjoyed every moment of it,” she said. “Just being able to go there, do my best and meet other people was awesome. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.”
Robertson and Young also enjoyed an opportunity to hit the ice with American figure skater/two-time Olympic medalist Michelle Kwan and South Korean skater/2010 Olympic champion Yu-Na Kim during the closing ceremony.
The pair were among 15 skaters – including seven Canadians – selected to join Kwan and Kim for the event.
“It was awesome to share the ice with them,” Robertson said. “I felt special. It was pretty amazing and cool.”
Dofasco Skating Club’s Special Olympics Figure Skating program is in its 16th season and draws athletes from Hamilton and beyond.
In addition to attending weekly practices, skaters perform at events and compete at the local, provincial, national and world levels in individual and pair categories.
Sullivan said he never dreamed the program would reach as far as it has.
“When (program chair) Betty Wainwright asked me to get involved and she asked me at the beginning to be the fundraiser, I went home, laid in bed, talked to the big guy and said, ‘There’s two things I want out of this: first, if we start, we don’t fold in two years and second, that we always have the money that we need, when we need it to do the things we need to do and both of those things have happened,” he said. “It’s a total success story because quality-wise, we’re the best program in Canada; we had four athletes go to the worlds. Being as emotional as I am, I shed a lot of tears of happiness seeing this happening to them and we couldn’t be more proud of these and all of our athletes.”