By sheer numbers, figure skating is one of the more popular sports in the Kingston Special Olympics program.
Every Saturday morning at the Kingston Memorial Centre, more than 30 children and young adults with intellectual difficulties try their hand at the sport.
Heading up the successful program is volunteer coach Lisa Janssen.
“I’ve been doing this for 18 years and love every minute of it,” said the well-known instructor, who also coaches with the Kingston Skating Club.
“I keep going because the kids keep coming, and they’re so much fun to be with. It’s a very rewarding experience.”
Janssen has enjoyed tremendous success with her skaters. Five members of the team have qualified for the Ontario Special Olympic championships next month in Sault Ste. Marie, including Keeler Andrew, Teri-Lynn Wilson, Sara Ryan, Colin Clark and Madison Smith.
“I just love figure skating,” said 19-year-old Smith.
“I started when I was just a little girl, and my mom was a good figure skater. I’m really excited about going to Sault Ste. Marie because I’ve never been to the provincials before.”
Also making his debut on the provincial competitive stage is Clark, 19.
“My passion for skating comes from my sister,” said Clark.
“She was a synchronized skater, and I loved watching her. I decided to join Special Olympics, and now she watches me. I needed something to do with my life, and skating fills that void.”
The Special Olympics program in Kingston is fortunate to have Janssen heading up the skating program.
“It’s not just me,” said Janssen. “I have a lot of help every Saturday from dedicated coaches with figure-skating backgrounds. They’re such a great help and they’re committed to being here every week. I could not do it without them.”