By Jody MacPherson
Fort McMurray Express, June 4, 1986
On Friday morning, eight athletes and five volunteers will board an old city transit bus and head for Drumheller, flying their Fort McMurray banner.
They will be on their way to the provincial Special Olympics June 6-8 to compete in swimming, track and field and bowling events.
“The competition will be stiffer than before, but we will make a good showing,” says Maurice Mathieu, the chairperson of the local Special Olympics committee.
Mathieu says Fort McMurray has some good calibre athletes.
At 14, Chris Powell already has six gold medals. He will go to Drumheller this weekend to compete in bowling and track and field. Powell says he is going to win another gold. His specialty is the 400 metre run, for which he won a gold medal at the Alberta Summer Games.
This is Guy Vachon’s first competition. The outgoing 12-year-old will compete in the sprint event as well as in swimming. He has been in training four months for swimming and is particularly excited about going to Drumheller.
Powell and Vachon’s track coach, Rod Smith is new at the job and says he thinks they will do okay at the competition.
“It will be good experience, this time around,” says Smith.
The City’s Special Olympians have competed in winter events in Hinton, Red Deer, Cold Lake and Bonnyville.
Powell, who has been skiing since he was six, won all three skiing events in Red Deer and also won a gold medal in Edson for cross-country skiing.
“At our last competition, we brought home five medals between eight athletes,” says Mathieu.
The Alberta Sport Council gave the committee $2,200 to help finance the trip to Drumheller.
“It’s a big event for us, we’re all new at this and it’s a chance for us to make contacts with some valuable resource people,” he says.
Mathieu says about 500 people will be in Drumheller for the Special Olympics.
“Just being there will be a real ‘high’,” he says.
He says the volunteers are just as excited as the kids about going.
Participants in the Special Olympics compete at their own level, says Mathieu. They are not grouped according to their age, but according to their level of competition.
“It makes the kids more outgoing just being there,” says Mathieu.
The committee was formed back in August of 1985 after the city hosted the Alberta Summer Games, but the new executive has only been in place for about two months.
For the time being, the committee is geared mainly for the mentally handicapped, but Mathieu says he hopes to expand their activities to include the physically handicapped.