5 Nova Scotians heading to France to show off their skills at the Abilympics

Members of the group preparing for the Abilympics in France. From Left: Robin Lorway, Jennifer Richardson, Liam Crane, Andrew Thorne and Amanda Payne. (Portia Clark/CBC - image credit)
Members of the group preparing for the Abilympics in France. From Left: Robin Lorway, Jennifer Richardson, Liam Crane, Andrew Thorne and Amanda Payne. (Portia Clark/CBC - image credit)

Andrew Thorne will be showing off his cooking skills to the world at the 2023 Abilympics next week.

He's one of five Nova Scotians who will be taking part at the quadrennial vocational skills competition for people with disabilities being held this year in Metz, France from March 23-25.

The 2023 competition will be the 10th international Abilympics. The first was first held in Japan in 1981.

According to their website: "The Abilympics are to trade competitions what the Paralympic Games are to the Olympic Games."

Thorne told CBC Radio's Information Morning Nova Scotia he has been honing his competition skills. He said the kitchen at the North End Baking Co. and Café in Halifax has become his second home.

Portia Clark/CBC
Portia Clark/CBC

The café is run by the Prescott Group, which works with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

"I've been learning how to do this without anyone's help," he said. "I already know what I'm going to make. I'm making an eclair, chocolate cake and scones."

He said his best result so far has been his chocolate cake.

Moral support

Amanda Payne, an instructor with the Prescott Group, said she will be with Thorne in France to provide moral support.

Payne said if Thorne gets frustrated during the competition she will be there to remind him that he can do it all by himself.

"He ends up making beautiful things," Payne said. "He's just come a very long way from start to finish and [it's] something he should be proud of because he's done all of the work."

Matt Madden
Matt Madden

Jennifer Richardson will be putting her photography skills to the test in France.

She told Clark she first became fascinated with photography after seeing photos on the computer.

Richardson said she is being mentored by Halifax photographer Matt Madden, who is helping her understand photographic composition.

Many people have helped her in her life, she said, and her self-confidence has grown.

Robin Lorway is a disability service manager with Skills Canada Nova Scotia, which is supporting the delegation.

Submitted by Prescott Group
Submitted by Prescott Group

Lorway said her role is to make sure that training in skilled trades and technologies is accessible to everyone.

"We try and put the disabilities on the back burner and put their abilities on display," Lorway said.

"We want them to feel included and we want them to know that their skills matter, their passions matter, and we're going to put that on the world stage."

Started a business

Liam Crane will be taking part in the team baking category. This year's competition will be his second Abilympics.

The Nova Scotia Community College culinary arts graduate has his own sushi business in Elmsdale and has even done a sushi-making video for Skills Canada.

Crane said competing at the last Abilympics in Finland gave him the confidence to start a business.

"If I can do that, I can push to do better at work, and what's the difference between doing your own thing and starting your own business?" he said.

The other team members heading to France from Nova Scotia are Hadia Bedoui, competing in electrical installations, and Alishia MacRae, competing in welding.

The delegation leaves for France on Monday