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World-class personality to go with Mercier's schedule

posted Mar 27, 2015, 7:32 AM by Stacey McKeown
Sandi Mercier trains for the Special Olympics World Summer Games at the YMCA of Brockville and Area on Tuesday. (JONATHON BRODIE/The recorder and Times)

Sandi Mercier trains for the Special Olympics World Summer Games at the YMCA of Brockville and Area on Tuesday. (JONATHON BRODIE/The recorder and Times)


The thing making Sandi Mercier's training most special is her dedication to it.

The 18-year-old's schedule reads almost like a professional athlete.

Monday is a personal yoga session.

Tuesday she works on strength training.

Wednesday is time for a little fun and she plays basketball.

Thursday is walking.

Friday consists of running at XTR Fitness and Sports Centre.

Saturday she gets to go bowling.

Truthfully, some of the coaches weren't sure if Mercier, who has a developmental delay and cerebral palsy, could even pull off the heavy training.

They couldn't have been more wrong. Mercier walks into every session decked out in her Reebok Canada gear, which was donated to her by the company, and a giant smile. That smirk rarely leaves her face throughout a session.

The training wasn't always this hard. It only stepped up after the TISS student qualified for the 100-metre dash and shot put events at the Special Olympics World Summer Games, which starts July 25 in Los Angeles.

"She's always participated, had a lot of fun and done her best and all that, but I never dreamed, quite frankly, she'd go as far as this," said Penney Place, Special OlympicsBrockville's track and field coach. "I didn't realize she had this perseverance and dedication."

Mercier earned her way to the world competition after collecting gold medals in shot put and the 50-metre dash at nationals.

Her work ethic is astonishing and, on the other side of the spectrum, her worry-free attitude might be helping her drive just as much. There's not much Mercier doesn't take in stride.

How does her physical disorders hinder her athleticism? "I have scoliosis in my back so it hurts, but other than that I just twist it and then goes back," Mercier said as she stretches her spine out. "All I have to do is go like that, it cracks and then it's good."

Where does she find the time and energy to do all her training? "I have no idea, but I do," she smiles.

Is she nervous for the World Games? "July is going to be a really busy month because the week before I leave I have to make sure I have everything ready and packed," she said, sports a complete afterthought in her answer.

"To do my best and have fun, meet new friends" is the sentence Mercier put in her Special Olympics Ontario profile when asked what she wanted to accomplish at the National Games.

There's something touching about Mercier's sentiment on what she considers a success. She trains as hard as she does not to win, but simply to be the best athlete she can possibly be. Stick to that formula and the wining follows, Mercier has proven that already by standing on top of the world one training session at a time.

Meeting new friends is the reason why Mercier signed up to Special Olympics in the first place, joining the group about five years ago. Currently the local organization has about 60 athletes involved in its programs.

There will be 7,000 athletes and 3,000 coaches at the World Games, so if Mercier keeps the same expectations she had at nationals then she'll be golden whether she wins or loses at her events.

Twitter.com/ @jonathonbrodie

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