THUNDER BAY – Josh Boudreau may be the only Northwest Territories athletes at the 2020 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games, but he’s hardly alone.
Boudreau has been adopted locally by St. Thomas Aquinas School, and like all speed skaters, was cheered loudly by a packed house at Delaney Arena each and every time he hits the ice.
The 19-year-old said he’s excited to be at the national event, held every four years, in Thunder Bay.
“It’s pretty nice, actually, to be the only one from the Northwest Territories,” he said on Thursday.
“I have lots of coaches (here) and I have lot of people back at home cheering for me... It feels like I’m carrying the Territories on my back.”
It’s the first Winter Games for Boudreau, who wasn’t too worried about winning or losing, which seems to be the mantra of most of the athletes taking part in the five-day event.
“I just want to do great,” he said.
Getting here wasn’t easy. It involved a lot of hard work over the past several years, fine-tuning the art of speed skating while building up his speed around the oval.
“For us it’s training hard and focusing on endurance,” he said.
“I just focus on the race.”
His mother, Heidi, is also along for the ride in Thunder Bay, and beamed with pride as her son got set to compete.
It’s an amazing feeling, she said.
“It’s very special to have him here and representing a sport he’s so passionate about.”
The younger Boudreau was a soccer player, and it was his mother who convinced him to give speed skating a try – despite some initial reluctance.
“He’s always been very competitive, so we wanted him to try something new. We gave it a shot and like anything, he didn’t want to try anything new. Within a few weeks, he loved it. We put him on speed skates and he’s never gone off them since.”
Thunder Bay’s Claire Kachur has a similar love for the sport.
On Thursday she was clearly the crowd favourite at Delaney, a group of students from St. Bernard School wildly cheering her on before she met with local media and then took to the ice for her speed skating competition.
“It’s awesome,” she said of the response.
“It’s been really good. I’m very excited.”
The adulation from the stands came with good reason, she joked.
“I’m going to be famous.”
The competition at the 2020 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games continues at venues throughout the city through Saturday.