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Mount Pearl soccer and floor hockey star Andrew Hynes will represent Newfoundland and Labrador on the world stage this winter, as he helps carry the torch to the 2022 Special Olympics.
Hynes will make his way to Moscow in January, where he and nine other athletes will begin the more than 800 kilometre journey to bring the Flame of Hope to the city of Kazan, Russia where it will light the Special Olympics cauldron.
With the event being delayed a full year and moved from Sweden to Russia due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hynes says it's been tough to wait, but more than worth it when he was finally able to share the news that he'd be going to the Special Olympics.
"I was on pins and needles the whole year.… My mother's reaction was insane," he said.
"She was bawling and crying and my sister was crying. Everyone else that I knew was crying."
Hynes will be part of the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) which brings law enforcement officers from around the world together with a cohort of carefully selected athletes to complete the final leg of the Flame of Hope's journey from Athens to the host site.
The LETR program, which began in Wichita, Kan. in 1981, has become the Special Olympics' largest awareness and fundraising event.
Lynette Wells, a Memorial University campus enforcement officer and provincial director for the LETR program, has the honour of accompanying Hynes to Russia this winter.
"We don't get the opportunity very often to represent Newfoundland and Labrador in such a large-scale event," Wells said.
"It's huge for us. It's very exciting."
Hynes, who is known among his peers as 'Spider,' due to his obsession with Spiderman, was nominated for the LETR program by Special Olympics Newfoundland and Labrador.
One of the organization's "favourite" athletes, Hynes was the perfect choice to represent the province on the world stage, Wells said.
"He's so 100 per cent all the time," she said. "So for me and him to be going, it's a great opportunity for two of us to go and participate together in such a great event."
Trish Williams, executive director for Special Olympics Newfoundland and Labrador, agrees.
"Andrew is the heart of any team he's on," she said.
"He is always excited to be there. He trains and gives 100 per cent all the time, and he sells Special Olympics everywhere he goes."
When she heard the Special Olympics was looking for athletes to participate in the LETR, Williams said Hynes was the first who came to mind.
"I immediately thought of Andrew," she said. "Every team could use a man like Andrew Hynes."
Williams hopes the 2022 games will breathe some fresh air into the LETR program.
"Nothing's been going on for the last 18 months," she said.
"So it's a big chance for us to make awareness about the torch run and our Special Olympics programs, which are getting up and running again now as well."
Hynes and Wells will be in the company of two Newfoundland and Labrador athletes when in Russia: Speedskater Brandon Park and cross-country skier Michael Budden are both competing.
Hynes said his greatest hope for the event is to make those at home proud.
"I'm hoping that I can represent Newfoundland well," he said.