The Kelowna International Airport was filled with cheers, laughter, tears, and plenty of hugs as athletes returned from the Special Olympics Winter Games in Thunder Bay.
As the athletes and coaches reunited with their friends and families, emotions ran high.
“This is our first nationals ever for 5-Pin Bowling and my sister is one of the bowlers, she got the silver,” Fae Hodgins, a 5-Pin Bowling coach, said through tears. “And the other two athletes got the gold medals and that was very exciting for me.”
“It feels good,” said Jeri Lee Hodgins, 5-Pin Bowler.
The national games that happen every four years are a moment like no other for the athletes.
“It’s just a magical moment where there is no judgement and the athletes have such an amazing time,” said Annabel Stanley, Cross Country Skiing coach.
Even though he didn’t win a medal, bowler Darryl Hagel says the trip was still a success.
“I had fun,” he said.
Bowler Shawn Blatz is going home with a gold medal around her neck.
“I’m happy,” she said.
The games are just as exciting for the proud family members waiting to congratulate the athletes.
“He’s won three gold medals and a bronze after being away for a few weeks, so it’s been a big trip,” said Grant Stanley, a parent.
The warm welcome was a lot to take in after the long trip home.
“Oh wow!” said Francis Stanley, cross country skier.
Now the athletes can take a well-deserved rest before they start back into training.