Hillsburgh athlete headed to Special Olympics World Games

GUELPH – Hillsburgh native Jennifer Allen is set to compete in the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Come March, Allen, 36, will be competing in 10-pin bowling at the global competition. She is the first Guelph/Wellington athlete to make the world championships in the sport.

In fact, Allen and track and field athlete Eva Bell of Guelph are the first ever Guelph/Wellington Special Olympians to compete in individual sports at the event.

“We have never had individual athletes get this far,” said coach Lori Savage. “Truly an accomplishment for all of us as coaches and athletes. We have great sponsors that have helped the athletes reach their dreams.”

The games will involve 7,000 athletes from 177 countries in 24 different sports,  as well as 2,500 coaches and 20,000 volunteers.

Savage has been coaching Allen in various sports since 2013.

“She is a dedicated athlete who is such a pleasure to coach,” Savage said.

“We are very proud of Jennifer’s accomplishments.”

She added, “Jennifer trains hard and always cheers on her teammates and her competitors. I am so glad to be part of her success and know she will do her best while enjoying the experience of representing Canada.”

Allen, who grew up in Hillsburgh and now lives in Guelph, started participating in Special Olympics through school when she was 14 years old.

“They knew that she liked sports,” said Allen’s mom Donna.

Her first Special Olympics sport was basketball, but over the years Allen has participated in floor hockey, track and field, swimming and baseball.

“I just have fun,” Allen said. “I meet new people.”

This spring was the first time Allen had ever been to a National Summer Games. She competed in Summerside, PEI from May 14 to 20, 2018, and brought home three gold medals in the doubles, singles and division overall bowling events. She also won a silver medal in team bowling, in which four athletes compete together.

“Jennifer qualified for the worlds by her performance (at the national event),” Savage said.

When Allen found out she would be competing in the World Games, she said, “I was excited. I can’t wait to go.”

Leading up to her March 7 departure for Abu Dhabi, Allen is focused on preparations.

“I’m doing a lot of training,” she said. “Going to the gym to do exercise (weight lifting) and bowling.”

And not all lanes are created equal. Before each tournament, Allen practices on each lane to learn how best to play.

“It takes her a whole game to figure out where she likes to stand,” Donna said.

In Guelph/Wellington Allen is coached by Savage and Kathy McKenzie from Woodlawn Bowling Centre, but at the World Games she will be assigned a different coach.

“She’s going to be good,” Allen said, noting she has already met her World Games coach.

When she arrives in Abu Dhabi, Allen will have a few days before the competition  begins. The games officially run from March 14 to 21.

Allen will be competing in the team, doubles and singles 10-pin bowling competition. Throughout the games, Donna and her daughter will have time to tour together.

“We’re going to get her on a camel ride, I’m hoping,” Donna said. “That’s the first thing we’re going to do.”

The athletes are fully funded to represent Canada at the Special Olympics World Games. However, anyone wishing to support the athletes can donate to Special Olympics Guelph/Wellington at www.specialolympicsguelph.com.

“I’m excited,” Allen said of the games. “I’m counting the months down.”