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Special Olympians shine at Sun Peaks

Skiers post strong results at BC Winter Games
big results Special Olympians Sarah Colpitts and Taylor Mitchell show off the medals they've won at various events, including the 2015 Special Olympics BC Winter Games at Sun Peaks from Feb. 21 to 23. photo by Dan Falloon

Two of Whistler's Special Olympians had fun and achieved their goals at the 2015 Special Olympics BC Winter Games at Sun Peaks from Feb. 21-23.

And their results may end up getting them both across the country to next year's nationals.

Taylor Mitchell, 24, took bronze in his division in both advanced slalom and advanced giant slalom and was fifth in advanced super-G. Meanwhile, teammate and best friend Sarah Colpitts, 26, was fifth in advanced slalom and sixth in advanced giant slalom and advanced super-G.

Mitchell said his attention to detail paid off on the Sun Peaks course.

"I'm pretty good at focusing on my track," Mitchell said.

Leading up to the Games, Colpitts said she was working on turning close to her gates, which helped her times at the mountain located near Kamloops.

"I tried my best and achieved my goals," Colpitts added, noting she did best in the giant slalom.

Coach Christiana Dürfeld, the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program's (WASP) sports academy coordinator, was happy with how the entire experience went, not only in competition, but throughout the weekend.

"They both did amazingly well for themselves. They both put in the best that they could," she said. "All three of us had the most amazing experience. It was mind-blowing."

Dürfeld is in her first full year of working full-time with Mitchell and Colpitts, though she interned with WASP in the summer of 2013 and was a volunteer with them the summer prior to that. She noted she feels a connection to all the athletes within the program.

"We are all on the same page of trying to improve in their sport in that we have the same goals," she said.

The province is divided up into eight regions for the purpose of the BC Winter Games, and Mitchell and Colpitts represented Region 5 for Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky. Each region was assigned a different team colour, and the athletes all proudly displayed their green garb at the Games and after their return.

"It felt like a little mini Olympics. They treat them like any other athlete," Dürfeld said. "(At)the opening ceremony, all of us had our matching jackets. It was a sea of green for Region 5."

With their strong showings, both athletes remain in contention to attend next year's Special Olympics Canada Winter Games in Corner Brook, N.L. The qualifiers will be determined once results from all the nation's branches are compiled, Dürfeld noted.

"That would be cool," said Mitchell, who has been skiing for 20 years. "I hope to go to nationals, and then hopefully the worlds after that."

The programming offered in Whistler is unique, Dürfeld noted, in that WASP provides the training for Special Olympians here as opposed to volunteers within Special Olympics. Both organizations came to an agreement that the arrangement was best for all involved to avoid dipping into the same funding pools, and is one they're looking to expand into other sports.

"It's a very big exception based off the fact that our pool of athletes is essentially the same," she said. "Instead of trying to compete with each other, we decided 'Let's work together to give everybody the best opportunity possible.'

"It seems to be going really well with our alpine program and we are hopefully going to transition over and add it to the swimming program we at Whistler Adaptive have."