HILLSBURGH – Two local Special Olympics athletes are representing Team Canada in the 2023 World Games in Berlin, Germany: Jennifer Allen from Hillsburgh and Marc Richardson from Guelph.
This year 89 athletes from all over Canada are competing in Berlin, so it’s a big deal to have two from Guelph and Wellington County, noted Special Olympics community coordinator Lori Savage.
Allen will be playing on the Canadian women’s basketball team and Richardson will be competing in 10 pin bowling.
They are in Germany now, exploring Munich – Team Canada’s host town.
The televised games begin on June 17 and last nine days.
Richardson has been a Special Olympic athlete for 18 years, and it has been his “lifelong dream to represent Team Canada” in the World Games, he told the Advertiser in an interview at the bowling alley.
“It is an honour.”
His favourite thing about the Special Olympics is getting to “compete with people with the same abilities” – and not being “made fun of if you do it wrong.”
Since he began training for the World Games in September, he has walked 903 kilometers, Savage said.
“Marc’s commitment to training has been amazing to watch,” she added.
Richardson said that was by walking for one hour a day – for nine months.
This will be his first time leaving Canada, and he is looking forward to “viewing the nice country” of Germany and “meeting other people from other countries.”
He also loves how competing in the Special Olympics allows him to hang out with fun people and travel all over Canada.
In 2019, Richardson represented Ontario in the National Games in Prince Edward Island.
Richardson’s “favourite thing about bowling is when the ball hits those pins at the end of the ally and you hear the pins fall.”
Bowling has brought Richardson and his brothers Matt and Greg closer together this year, as they bowl together once every two weeks, along with his nephew Desmond.
Allen has been competing in the Special Olympics for over 22 years, and she competed in 10 pin bowling in the World Games in Abu Dhabi in 2019.
Allen said she was not expecting a chance to compete in the Special Olympics World Games for a second time, in a different sport.
Allen is looking forward to “meeting new friends” and spending time with her teammates and coaches in Germany.
While playing basketball Allen enjoys “hearing the cheering” and encouragement from her teammates, especially when they say “let’s go Jen!” or “you’ve got this!”
She plays all positions and especially enjoys shooting lay-ups and “running down the court,” though she is careful to pace herself so she still has energy in the fourth quarter.