P.E.I. Special Olympians head to Austria for World Winter Games

P.E.I. Special Olympians head to Austria for World Winter Games

​Two Island athletes are making their way to Austria this weekend to represent Special Olympics P.E.I. at the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games taking place next week.

Janet Charchuk of Alberton, P.E.I., will compete in snowshoeing and Alyssa Chapman of Murray Harbour, P.E.I., in figure skating for team Canada which includes more than 100 other athletes. 

"I'm actually feeling excited and a bit nervous at the same time," Charchuk told CBC Radio: Island Morning's Matt Rainnie. 

Both are veteran competitors: Charchuk has been involved with Special Olympics for about 20 years, representing P.E.I. at national games last year in Corner Brook, N.L., in snowshoeing and in Regina, Sask., for swimming. This will be her first world games. 

Intense training

She's been training intensively, five to six days a week, Charchuk shared. Even before it snowed this winter she trained on grass, she said.

"I actually think I do feel ready for it!" she enthused. She'll be competing against 23 other snowshoers.

Her hometown of Alberton arranged a send-off party for Charchuk this week, where the mayor and the local MLA applauded her efforts and gave her some flags and pins to share in Austria. 

Charchuk has also participated in bowling, bocce and golf programs with the organization.

A little 'overwhelming'

Chapman has been competing with Special Olympics for 16 years and has already participated in the 2013 Special Olympics World Games in South Korea, as well as twelve nationals and Canada Games in figure skating as well as swimming and soccer. She trains at the Charlottetown Figure Skating Club.

"The South Korea Games, they were really different — the culture was different, the food was different, it was just overwhelming a little bit," Chapman recalled. 

"It'll be okay, after a while you just get used to it," Chapman assured Charchuk. 

More important than medals

"I took home some really good friendships with some of my fellow figure skaters, and some of them are going to be there [in Austria] too," Chapman said when asked for her favourite memories of her last world games. 

And the two gold medals she won? Well, those were nice too, she said. 

"Still a little scary, just going to try to do my best, that's all I can really do," she said of her hopes for this games, where she will compete with 16 skaters from around the world. 

'Very proud'

"We're very proud," said Matthew McNally, program director with Special Olympics P.E.I. "We're very pleased that Janet and Alyssa have really showed P.E.I. proud at every level of competition."  

The two women fly to the games together this Sunday.

P.E.I. has more than 320 Special Olympics athletes competing in its grassroots programming, which aims to enrich the lives of Islanders living with intellectual disabilities. 

"We will be watching very closely" for the results, said McNally, promising to share results on Special Olympics P.E.I.'s Facebook page and website. Check out the competition's web page at austria2017.org. Competition starts Friday, March 17 and ends the following Friday.

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