After only four years of skiing, local athlete Shelly Poland is gearing up to compete in the Special Olympics in St. Albert, Alberta.
“I am competing in the Special Olympics for skiing, cross-country skiing,” said the 30-year-old Poland.
“She’s been in regionals, provincials, and now she’s in nationals. And if she makes this one, next year she goes to South Korea,” said Jean Hogaboam, Poland’s mother.
In less than a week, Poland will be flying from Cranbrook to St. Albert to compete in the 500 metre, and one kilometre cross-country skiing races.
“I am so excited to watch her. It’s going to be awesome. I’ll probably cry through the entire opening ceremonies,” said Hogaboam.
Poland was born and raised here in Golden, and she is already receiving tremendous support from the community for her upcoming adventure.
“She’s been here her whole life, so everyone in town knows her. So she’s gotten so many good luck wishes. And one person told her they were proud she was representing Golden,” said Hogaboam.
The Special Olympics organization in Golden was started by Ned Johnson, and has given Poland the opportunity to become involved with many different sports.
“My favourite sports are bowling, golf, and skiing,” said Poland. She also said that she is a competitive person, and enjoys pushing herself to get better, although Hogaboam says she has to do a bit of pushing on occasion as well.
Poland is doing dryland training exercises and stretching every day, and since she started in October, she has lost four inches in her waist, and three inches in her hips said Hogaboam.
After winning a gold and silver medal last year, Poland and her mom are very optimistic about the competition this year.
“We haven’t timed her yet this year, but last year she was two minutes ahead of her best time. So I’m hoping this year she’ll take another two minutes off,” said Hogaboam.
The Special Olympics start in St. Albert on Feb. 28, and run until March 3. At the opening ceremonies, each province will have its athletes enter with a special guest. And British Columbia has the honour or arriving with BC Lions quarterback Travis Lulay.
“I’m not a huge football fan, so I had to ask who it was, but my husband is very excited,” said Hogaboam.
The Special Olympics organization has been very generous to its athletes. Poland has already received everything she will need to compete next week.
“The Special Olympics pays for everything. She’s got new coats and pants, more than $500 worth of stuff they’ve given her,” said Hogaboam.
But the local organization is always looking for more help.
“We’re always looking for volunteers. If they want to come help out that would be great, or if they have their own program/sport they want to start they can do that too,” said Hogaboam.
Anyone interested in volunteering can call Karley Ferner at 250-190-0757.
For more information about the St. Albert Special Olympics go to stalbert2012.ca.