Bowlers from Special Olympics Orillia are gearing up for the national tournament in Calgary this winter.
On Oct. 4, athletes began a 20-week period during which their scores are submitted to Special Olympics Ontario. The best bowlers from each region will earn the opportunity to compete at nationals.
Due to a scheduling conflict with Orillia Bowl, local athletes are competing and practising out of the Coldwater Bowling Centre this year. Despite the longer-than-usual travel for athletes, coach April Coombs says it is a great venue.
“It is a little bit smaller,” she said. “However, it is more intimate, and we’ve provided athletes with a LINX bus and two different sessions to help work with their schedules.
She says it’s an exciting time for bowlers as they train toward their ultimate goal.
“Most of the athletes who have already been to nationals are cheering on their peers. It’s a big deal to them,” she said.
“They do special training for this. Once they are selected, there is special fundraising involved to get them there.”
At nationals, athletes are outfitted in Special Olympics gear and are treated like celebrities.
“It is, literally, like the Olympics for them,” Coombs says. “They are really excited about it.”
Evan Pittam is one of the local bowlers who has been to nationals — once in Thunder Bay and once on Prince Edward Island.
“It’s really great,” he said. “I get to meet a whole bunch of people from their provinces and make new friends.”
Pittam, 29, says nationals are also an opportunity to learn new skills from coaches from around the province. It also gives him the opportunity to share his skills and knowledge with other bowlers, he explained.
“I really enjoy it,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
So far, Pittam is happy with how he’s bowled during qualifiers in Coldwater.
“I bowl twice a week,” he said. “I love joking around with my friends and having fun. It’s been a great experience.”