SHELBURNE COUNTY, N.S. – Shelburne County athletes Daniel Hopkins of Lockeport and Ashley Rennehan of Shelburne are among the 900 competitors taking to the field in the 2018 Special Olympics Canada Summer Games in Antigonish on July 31 to Aug. 4.
The two track and field athletes were named to Team Nova Scotia late last summer and have been practising and following a rigorous workout and healthy living routine since then to prepare for the games. Hopkins is competing in the 200m, 400m and shot put. Rennehan is entered in the 1500m, running long jump and shot put.
Qualifying for the national games “is always something I’ve dreamed about,” said Rennehan in an interview on the field at Shelburne Regional High School. “I’ve always wanted to go to nationals. I’m living the dream now.”
This will also be first time going to nationals for Hopkins as well.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” said Hopkins. “It’s not only the competition, its amazing. You’re meeting friends, making new friends and just the challenge, its amazing, a lot of fun. Whether you win or whether you don’t, wherever you come in you always have people cheering you and doesn’t matter where you come in, you try your best, try your personal hardest and everybody congratulates you.”
Special Olympics is “amazingly good sportsmanship,” said Coach Kenny Coffin. “From fellow competitors you get great support. You support them, they support you, it matters not if you finish first or last... The will to win is just as strong (as all athletes) but the support from other athletes is incredible. Last year Daniel went to the summer games for the first time and a guy fell down at the finish line. Daniel wasn’t worried about finishing. He stopped to help him. Finishing is great, but the comradery is amazing.”
Since qualifying for the national games last year, both Hopkins and Rennehan have been dedicated to training and getting in the best possible shape, with gym workouts, weekly practices and running as much as possible, even in the high humidity.
“We’re pretty proud of them,” said Kim Arcon, regional coordinator for Special Olympics Shelburne County. “To continue to train in this heat, I admire their stamina and work commitment for sure.”
As a lead up to the national games, Hopkins and Rennehan have competed at a number of track meets in the spring and early summer, including the provincial summer games in Halifax, where Hopkins captured gold in the 100m and bronze in the 400m. Rennehan brought home silver in running long jump, and bronze in the 800m, 1500m and the 3000m, his favourite race. Coach Coffin said Hopkins and Rennehan’s personal bests have been getting better with each competition.
The two athletes were given a celebratory send off at Welkum Park in Welshtown on July 20 before leaving for Antigonish. This is the second time the national summer games have been held in Nova Scotia. The games feature nine sports: athletics, basketball, bocce, golf, rhythmic gymnastics, powerlifting, soccer, softball and swimming. More than 3,000 spectators 900 athletes, 290 coaches, officials and mission staff, and 600 volunteers are expected to attend the games, which is a qualifying event for athletes to represent Canada at the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games.
Other tri-county Special Olympians competing at nationals
Athletes from Yarmouth County and one from Clare also are taking part in the Special Olympics Canada Summer Games.
From the Yarmouth Special Olympics program, athletes Walter Muise, Royce Murphy and Tony Clairmont are going to the national games as members of Nova Scotia’s softball team. Adam MacIsaac, also from the Yarmouth area, is a coach with the province’s softball team.
From Clare, athlete Bobby Comeau will take part in the nationals in bocce.
The Digby Special Olympics program has no athletes in this year’s national summer games.