Special Olympics Canada Winter Games 2012

Honourable senators, I had the pleasure last week to be in beautiful St. Albert, Alberta, which has a great community history of the Metis, Aboriginal and French history that sometimes we forget in that part of Alberta. It is also home, I guess, to Jean Chrétien’s 100 cousins. Anyway, I digress.

I was there to speak at the opening of the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games. It was a perfect winter scene: bright, crisp and pure.

It was also an exciting moment to share with the 650 Special Olympics athletes who, after months of training, were ready and raring to compete.

I went to Alberta to celebrate the athletes’ courage and talent and to wish each and every one of them tremendous success in their sport.

Competitions were in seven sports: Alpine and cross-country skiing, curling, figure skating, speed skating, floor hockey and snowshoeing.

There is nothing more joyful in my life as a senator than having the opportunity to meet extraordinary, courageous people who make a positive difference in the world like Special Olympics athletes. They truly have the same dedication and spirit as other high-performing athletes. The theme of this year’s game captured this very idea: Just as bold. Here for gold.

While training, passion and commitment play an important role in any athlete’s competitive ability, the encouragement of family, friends and communities is also very important. Counting all the coaches, managers and volunteers accompanying the athletes, as well as their family and friends who came to cheer them on, there were more than 2,500 people who came from all parts of the country to attend the games. All 10 provinces, as well as the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, were represented.

In my address at the opening ceremony I said, as I will say to honourable senators now, Special Olympics athletes are men and women with heart. Special Olympics athletes are men and women with soul. More than anything, Special Olympics athletes teach us all the true meaning of sport. They are as adept at competition as they are at camaraderie. They are realizing their athletic dreams and, true to what Special Olympics is all about, they are winning at life.