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Special Olympian bowled over by chance to compete at nationals

Lynda Larkin will represent Orillia at the 2020 Special Olympics Winter Games in February; 'I’m expecting our team to work together and play good'

Special Olympics athlete Lynda Larkin is preparing to represent Orillia at the 2020 Special Olympics National Winter Games in February.   

Recently, at a Special Olympics qualifying tournament in Peterborough, Larkin finished in first place in the ladies’ division thanks to an impressive high score of 145, which tripled her average score.

Larkin’s individual score paced her team to a first-place finish at the tournament, which qualified her and her team for the upcoming nationals in Thunder Bay.

“Our team came in first, and I brought home a gold, and now we get to bowl in Thunder Bay. I’m really excited to go,” Larkin said, barely able to contain her excitement.

Larkin spends most of her days at a day program at Empower Simcoe in Orillia. She said she was thrilled to return home from the qualifying tournament in Peterborough to show the community the gold medal she earned.

“I was very excited. I brought some medals to work to show everyone,” she said.

As Larkin was close to tripling her average score and carrying her team to the national tournament, she began to feel the pressure, she admits. But she thinks she handled it well.

“I was nervous, but I just work it out. I just take a deep breath and relax,” Larkin explained.

Larkin, now 49, is originally from Haliburton, but was raised in Barrie where she attended high school at Barrie North Collegiate.

Larkin’s accomplishments at the Peterborough tournament garnered major recognition from the community - including one of the biggest businesses in Canada.

Tim Hortons teamed with Special Olympics and Larkin to create a special donut that was added to the menu back in July to celebrate Global Day of Inclusion. All the proceeds from the donut that day were donated to Special Olympics Canada.

“People donated to get a Special Olympics donut that helped other people to work with Special Olympics,” Larkin explained.

Larkin says it meant a lot to her that Tim Hortons involved her in the project. 

“I’m very happy they chose me because I finished in first place. That was exciting.”

Larkin enjoyed all the local publicity and support she received from her success in the Peterborough tournament, but it’s in her rearview mirror. Now,  she is locked in and focused on preparing for Thunder Bay.

Larkin says she is making more time to practise and prepare ahead of the winter games.

“On Tuesdays, I bowl regularly and on Wednesdays I’ve been fitting in practices when I can,” she explained.

“I’m very excited. I have never bowled in the Winter Games before.”

Larkin has been bowling ever since she can remember, but the upcoming national competition is the biggest stage that she has ever competed on. Her expectations for herself and her team are high, but she isn’t putting too much pressure on herself.

“I’m expecting our team to work together and play good. Whether we win or lose, we will work together to do our best,” she said.

“The main goal is to win, but also have fun and put yourself together to do our best," Larkin added.

Larkin is one of the 47,500 athletes with an intellectual disability currently participating in the Special Olympics program in Canada.

But she is more than a statistic and being involved in Special Olympics is more than just competing.

“It’s so fun and you get to meet different people. It helps you get involved in the community and be a part of it,” Larkin said.

 “I like meeting other friends, the coaches and being with all the people.”

Larkin added she feels proud to represent Orillia as a Special Olympic athlete and hopes to make the city proud when she competes at the 2020 Winter Games.