Special Olympians return home to Golden with medals

Two local Special Olympics athletes have returned home victorious after attending the Special Olympics BC Winter Games in Vernon last weekend.

Shelly Poland and Sebastian Gylander competed with Zone 1 athletes from the East Kootenays. Both Poland and Gylander are cross country skiers, who have been training with their coaches in preparation for the event.

“[They] spent the weekend down in Vernon skiing their hearts out,” said parent and Special Olympics Golden public relations’ Dona Gylander. “It was the most amazing and emotional event to see all of these athletes come together, and all they wanted was to see each other do well.”

Sebastian Gylander placed first in his division, getting gold in the 2.5-kilometre skate ski, and the 2.5-kilometre classic. He also placed third in the five-kilometre classic. Poland placed third in the one-kilometre race classic, fifth in the 2.5-kilometre, and sixth in the 500-metre.

“It was overwhelming to see everyone be so successful,” Dona said.

Nearly 600 athletes from B.C. and the Yukon competed in five-pin bowling, alpine skiing, cross country skiing, curling, figure skating, floor hockey, snowshoeing, and speed skating. The athletes worked hard at the competitions, but also made friends along the way, encouraging each other to keep going and try their best.

“It was the most accepting, inclusive environment I’ve ever been in,” Dona said.

Poland and Sebastian Gylander were competing at the provincial games to earn their way onto the national team. The team is chosen on a points system, based on all of the competing athletes. Sebastian and Poland will find out in the future if they make the national team.

Upon arriving home, the Special Olympics athletes were welcomed back on the Trans-Canada Highway by local RCMP officers. The athletes got off the bus and were met and congratulated individually by each of the officers attending.

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