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SO-Belleville athletes head to National Winter Games!

posted Feb 11, 2012 8:34 PM by April Haggart

Alberta Bound

Quinte Blades send speedskaters to 2012 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games

By Paul Svoboda         Belleville Intelligencer          07FEB12 

Tim Maracle is quick to laugh when someone suggests his favourite thing about speedskating is not wiping out. 
“Yeah, not crashing,” said Maracle, nodding in mock agreement while taking a well-earned timeout during a Quinte Blades Speedskating Club training session held recently at Yardmen Arena.

Maracle’s sense of humour, however, belies his skill and ability on the speedskating oval. He was good enough to compete in the 2000 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games in Ottawa and, perhaps more impressively, he has qualified to skate in his second Nationals — 12 years later — Feb. 28-March 3 in St. Albert, AB.

Maracle, 31, will be joined in Alberta by his Blades teammate, 22-year-old Kai Freeland, who is making his debut at the Nationals. Longtime Blades mentor, Laura Woodall, will also be there as head coach of Team Ontario.

Maracle and Freeland, says Woodall, are maintaining a longstanding Quinte tradition of sending outstanding competitors to the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games.

“Belleville has sent excellent athletes to the Nationals for several years,” said Woodall. “From our region, at Provincials last year, we had 12 athletes in 43 events and brought home 42 medals.”

Maracle and Freeland were among them. Maracle won four gold medals while Freeland captured three, along with a silver, at the 2011 Ontario competition held in Thunder Bay.

“That’s how they qualified for the Nationals,” said Woodall. 
Speedskating has become a staple item on the menu of sports offered at the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games and Woodall says several factors have led to its popularity. First and foremost, she says, might be the fact that Special Olympic athletes compete during the season in open club events — the sport is all-inclusive.

“It has become one of Canada’s premier sports and it is open to all abilities,” said Woodall. “There are categories for everyone.”

Plus, you don’t need a lot of equipment to participate, other than skates and a helmet. 
In Alberta, Maracle will compete in four events: 222m, 333m, 500m and 777m. Likewise for Freeland, who’ll go for gold in the 333m, 500m, 777m and 1000m competitions.

They’ll be among 45 athletes competing in the speedskating segment of the Games. Ontario boasts the most, 15, with B.C. next with nine.

Maracle has been speedskating for 16 years while Freeland embraced the sport for the first time in 2004. 
So, what is the best thing about speedskating? No, seriously. 
“It’s good exercise,” said Maracle. “I prefer the sprints and short distances.” 
Freeland smiles when asked the same question. 
“Everything,” he said. 

Fast Facts
What: Special Olympics Canada Winter Games. 
Where: St. Albert, AB. 
When: Feb. 28-March 3. 
Who: A total of 669 athletes. Ontario sends the largest contingent, with 195 athletes and 72 coaches and support staff. “Ontario has booked eight floors of the hotel we’re staying in,” said Woodall.What: Other sports are figure skating, snowshoeing, Nordic and alpine skiing, floor hockey and curling. 
Why: According to the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games mission statement, “to provide all athletes with the opportunity to enrich their lives and celebrate personal achievement through an athlete-centered, technically proficient, Games.”
Need to know: Special Olympics was founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver in 1968. The first national competition in Canada was held one year later