Not only has Greg Ovenden been to the B.C. Special Olympics in the past, he’s also won gold at the national level.
“This is a gold medal that I have for curling in 2008 when I went to Quebec City for nationals,” Ovenden said while holding the medal. “This is one of my pride and joy medals.”
This time around, Ovenden has his sights set on yet another gold medal, but in a different sport.
“I’ve been doing bowling for maybe a good 20 years now,” Ovenden said. “It makes me feel good. It makes me quite happy.”
Five-pin bowling is one of the eight sports featured at the 2019 Special Olympics B.C. Winter Games, which take place in Vernon, Feb. 21 to 23.
In fact, five-pin bowling is one of the most popular sports at the Special Olympics across Canada, with more than 2,100 athletes in B.C. alone competing in the sport.
“Just meeting new friends, encouraging them to get better, showing them how to be a better bowler,” Ovenden said, citing some of the reasons why he loves the interactive group sport.
The Penticton athlete is the captain of his bowling team, which is comprised of five players.
“Greg — I’ve known him for 19 years. I’ve actually watched him progress in his bowling,” said Ovenden’s head volunteer coach, Fae Hodgins. “He started out slowly. He was very shy at the beginning, but now he’s come out of his shell.”
Hodgins started volunteering as a coach to support her sibling.
“My sister is special needs, so I joined up just to help her out and I got asked to be the head coach about 29 years ago,” Hodgins said.
After almost three decades, Hodgins is still thrilled to be helping athletes prepare for the Special Olympics.
“It’s a privilege to be with them,” Hodgins said. “I just get more bubbly and (it’s a) great joy to be here.”
Working with Ovenden has been an impactful and memorable experience for Hodgins.
“He’s a lot of fun. He’s more open. He helps out a lot of people,” Hodgins said. “He’s just a kind guy.”
Ovenden, and the hundreds of other athletes with intellectual disabilities competing this weekend in Vernon at the B.C. Special Olympics, have a chance to go to the nationals next February in Thunder Bay, Ont.
All the events are free of charge to attend, including the opening ceremonies, which take place at Kal Tire Place in Vernon, Feb. 21, from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.