Special Olympic athletes won gold, silver, bronze medals in Berlin

MILTON – Local athletes won gold, silver, and bronze medals for Team Canada during the 2023 Special Olympics World Games in Berlin, Germany last month. 

Jennifer Allen from Hillsburgh helped the women’s basketball team win silver – an especially significant accomplishment as this is the first year there has been a women’s basketball team in the Special Olympics World Games.  

Marc Richardson from Guelph won a gold medal in men’s doubles bowling and a bronze medal in men’s singles. 

“Berlin was excellent,” Richardson said. “It was just an overall great experience and I would recommend any athlete that wants to live out their dream to get that far – to Worlds.” 

When they first arrived in Germany, the athletes spent a week in Munich, where they visited the Allianz Arena soccer stadium – home to FC Bayern Munich.

The team has a Canadian player, Alphonso Davies, who recorded a message for the Team Canada athletes to take home with them. 

After a week in Munich the athletes took the train to Berlin for the games. 

In Berlin, 7,000 Special Olympic athletes from 190 countries participated in an opening ceremony. Team Canada had a total of 89 athletes. 

Allen said the opening ceremony felt quite overwhelming, “but I had my head up this time, and I was smiling.” 

It was Allen’s second Special Olympics World Games – she competed in 10 pin bowling in Abu Dhabi in 2019. 

Richardson said his mom, brothers, nephew, niece and aunt were in the crowd cheering for him during the opening ceremony, but he couldn’t hear them over the din. 

Special Olympics community coordinator Lori Savage was there cheering too, so much that she lost her voice on the second day, and it only went back to normal weeks after they returned home.

“I might have been the loudest Canadian,” she chuckled. 

Once it came time to play basketball, Allen said she felt a little nervous. When the game started, she couldn’t hear the crowd cheering over the noise of the ball and shoes on the court. Her team won two of the three games they played. 

“We played Mali in the final,” she said, and the players on the other team towered over her. 

At about five foot two, Allen said “I’m like, short! And these guys were tall!” 

Before it came time to bowl, Richardson felt nervous too, especially when he saw the talent of some of his competitors.  Savage said they saw “some amazing bowls like we’ve only seen on TV.” 

But Richardson was able to hold his own. When the announcer read out his name and country, inviting him to stand on the podium and presenting his gold medal, Richardson said he was so excited he almost cried. 

“That’s when it became real,” Savage said. 

The games were wonderful and the athlete’s dreams all came true, she added.