More than 60 athletes from around the province converged on Kelowna’s Apple Bowl last weekend for Special Olympics BC’s inaugural Okanagan Valley Challenge track and field meet.
Featuring competitors from ages 10 to 50, taking part in 13 different events, the day-long meet was designed to give local athletes a chance to compete in familiar surroundings.
“It’s the kind of event that ensures Special Olympics athletes have the same opportunities to compete like any other athletes would,” said meet coordinator and Special Olympics Kelowna coach, Toni Jestadt. “In the past, our competitions have often been making a trip out to the coast and there’s always a handful of athletes who don’t necessarily have the independence to do that, including many of our youth.
“For our local athletes, it’s a home game of sorts. They can compete in front of family and friends and really enjoy themselves in a familiar environment.”
In addition to about 25 athletes competing from host Special Olympics Kelowna, others came from as far away as Abbotsford, Surrey and Fort St. John, as well as from Kamloops and Vernon.
Jestadt is hopeful the 2017 edition of Okanagan Valley Challenge track and field meet will become an annual event.
In the long-term, she would like to see the meet rotate on a yearly basis between Kelowna, Kamloops and Vernon.
For some of the athletes at last weekend’s meet, it was a chance to tune up for the 2017 Special Olympics BC Summer Games, July 7 to 9 in Kamloops.