Special Olympians find a home at Langford Lanes
For some, the return of 10-pin bowling to Greater Victoria is more than just recreation.
Five years after the final ball rattled down the doomed lanes of Mayfair Lanes, Victoria’s Special Olympics bowling program is rolling once more. The return has re-opened doors for athletes without a sport.
“It is a wonderful opportunity and a wonderful program … Bowling is one of those sports a lot of athletes feel comfortable with, that is the reason we are so keen,” said Special Olympics co-ordinator Chantal Brodeur. “The athletes (are) just ecstatic.”
Every Wednesday, approximately 39 athletes make their way to Langford Lanes for training and camaraderie. The program is so popular 12 more athletes patiently sit on a wait list, hoping for a spot to open and Brodeur is excited to see the popularity of the sport continue to grow.
“It is a lifesaver that this 10-pin bowling was created. It has opened up opportunities (for athletes) that could not do, or did not wish to do anything (else),” she said. “To see the joy the athletes have when they come, leave and speak about bowling - to us that is vital. To have that relationship is conduct to the ultimate goal.”
For some, one such goal extends to participation in the Special Olympics World Summer games. The Victoria program hoping to send five athletes to Los Angeles in 2015 where more than 6,000 athletes from 170 countries are expected to participate.
The Victoria Special Olympics program alone boasts more than 200 athletes and 150 volunteers, many of whom were devastated when Mayfair Lanes closed their doors in 2006. But when the volunteer heard that 10-pin bowling was coming to Langford in 2011, she approached the facility where management pledged support above and beyond her expectations.
“There are a lot of stigmas and a lot of fears because people don’t understand our athletes,” she said. “(Langford Lanes) were open arms - and we were the one and only group allowed to bowl on opening day. That speaks volumes.”
Today athletes including Trina Owen, who boasts two silver medals from the 2003 Special Olympics in Dublin, Ireland, looks forward to the trip every week, and is glad to be having fun among friends once more.
“Woo hoo, I am excited” she said pumping her hands in the air. “I didn’t have a chance to bowl for a long time. I missed it.”
While the athletes are happy to be back in the game, Brodeur is just as happy to share it with them.
“When you are around the athletes there is a relationship, an attraction that allows you to be honest to be who you are and give from the heart,” she said. “You get out of it is a sense of satisfaction that not only have you contributed to your community you have created a relationship … That is what we are here for, we are here to serve the athletes.”
For more information visit www.victoriaspecialolympics.com.