Special Olympics BC is sending its largest contingent ever to the National Winter Games and it includes Golden resident Sebastrain Gylander, who will be competing in the traditional cross-country ski and skate ski events.
For the past 10 years Gylander has had his eyes set on making it to the world championships, so getting the opportunity to compete at the national level at the end of February is a step in the right direction.
“His goal since he was 12 has been to make it to the world championships, so now he’s three quarters of the way there,” said Dona Gylander, Sebastian’s mother and public relations’ officer for Special Olympics Golden.
“He says skiing is his place where he feels happy and accepted.”
Special Olympics BC is dedicated to enriching the lives of individuals with intellectual disabilities through sport. It provides equal access to programs that are often taken for granted.
“As a parent we see him in school, but he is a certain way with the Special Olympics. He’s more himself,” said his mother. “It’s built his self esteem and now even in school he’s known as a great athlete.”
Now aged 15, Gylander has carved out a niche as a phenomenal athlete, with his strength propelling him to success.
Helping him get there has been his head coach Jeff Dolinski, who was one of the founding members of the Golden Nordic Ski Club. Dolinski is widely considered one of the best coaches for Gylander’s advanced level.
Gylander also has the benefit of having a mentor in Shelly Poland, who is herself a gold medallist Special Olympian from Golden.
According to Dona, it’s that kind of help that has allowed Gylander to progress with his training and work towards his goal of qualifying for the world championship.
“She’s been there for him through this whole process and they’ve become really close friends because of it,” said Dona. “I think we produce such good athletes because of our facilities and the skilled people that we have who work with the athletes.”
While Golden may be producing phenomenal athletes, the Special Olympics team here remains small and tight knit. With the success they’ve experience, the program is looking to grow.
“We need the community to come out and volunteer to be a coach if you have the skill set, or come and sit on our executive to help us with fundraisers,” said Dona. “The community has a whole has been very generous and supportive of Special Olympics because every thing we’ve asked from them we’ve pretty much received.”
The National Winter Games will be taking place in Thunder Bay, Ont., from Feb. 25-29.