New Brunswick skater aims for gold at Special Olympics world games

New Brunswick skater aims for gold at Special Olympics world games

A New Brunswick athlete is skating her way to Austria for the Special Olympics World Winter Games this month.

Veronique LeBlanc was selected for the team after her performance last year at the Canada Special Olympics in Corner Brook, N.L.

She won gold medals in the 777-metre and 222-metre races as well as a silver in the 500-metre, and a bronze in the 333-metre race in her division.

She will be the only New Brunswick speedskater headed to the Special Olympics Winter Games in Austria. The event is running from March 14 to 25 with close to 2,700 athletes competing from around the world.

The only other athlete from New Brunswick is Jennifer Jackson of Woodstock, who is competing in the snowshoeing category and is the only other athlete taking part in the event.

"I'm very, very excited to be in Austria," said LeBlanc, whose family will be attending the games as well.

"I'm very … excited and happy to go."

LeBlanc, who has been skating since she was six, started speed skating in the Special Olympics at least 10 years ago.

She went to her first nationals competition in 2008 in Quebec City and competed in St. Albert, Alta., in 2012.

LeBlanc has been training hard for months and says she's a bit sore from all the hard work.

"Yeah, I'm ready," said LeBlanc, who also enjoys swimming and working out at the gym. 

She's setting her sights high on a gold medal from the major event.

"I might get it," she said. "I'll try my best to get it."

The athlete said she doesn't really get nervous and is putting all her focus on the upcoming races. She'll be competing in four races, including the 777 metres and the 500 metres, which is her favourite.

A big opportunity

Sacha LeBlanc has been coaching LeBlanc for the past eight years. She says the New Brunswick speedskater has been doing well, training six days a week.

"She's really upped her training since she learned she was selected to the national team," said Sacha LeBlanc, describing the event as a big opportunity. "This year has been incredible."

Sacha LeBlanc, who will be attending the world event for the first time as a coach, said LeBlanc is always ready to work and give it her best.

"Every practice we're seeing big improvements, we had a competition last month where she broke all her personal best times," she said.

"It's a confidence thing, like you know you're good, you know you're feeling great, you know you're skating fast." 

LeBlanc's dad, Guy LeBlanc, said his daughter has always enjoyed taking part in the sport and meeting new friends.​

"She just loves it," he said. "Not just the racing, to meet new friends and just to take part with the others. She does enjoy competing also."

He said he's always enjoyed watching his daughter participate in the sport she loves and is looking forward to seeing the outcome of the games this month.

"If she wins a medal that's good, if not, she's going to enjoy," he said. "I'm very proud."