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GOLDEN SMILE – Swimmer Ernest Chua shows off the gold medal he won Wednesday in the 50-metre freestyle event. Photo by SERGE MICHAUD

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ON TARGET – Yukon athlete Carrie Rudolph competes this morning in bocce as her coach Debra Sumner, left, looks on. Photo by SERGE MICHAUD

Yukon athletes pick up first two medals at Special Olympic Summer Games

Swimmer Ernest Chua won gold for the Yukon Thursday at the Special Olympics 2018 Canada Summer Games in Antigonish, N.S.

By Chuck Tobin on August 2, 2018

Swimmer Ernest Chua won gold for the Yukon Thursday at the Special Olympics 2018 Canada Summer Games in Antigonish, N.S.

Distance runner Darby McIntyre earned the territory’s second medal with a bronze in the 5,000-metre race this morning, on what is the second day of competition at the St. Francis .

A persistent heat wave out East has prompted Games officials to adjust the schedule and suspend all outdoor sports between 12 p.m. and 4 p.m.

But the word from Antigonish is Team Yukon is still pumped, despite temperatures that are soaring well above 30 degrees.

“Our athletes just persevere,” CEO Serge Michaud of Special Olympic Yukon said in an interview this morning. “These are their national games and not only do they want to compete, they just want to take it all in.”

Michaud said all events are continuing, with the exception of rhythmic gymnastics, which gets going tomorrow for Aimee Lien, the territory’s only representative.

Attending the Games is John Streicker, minister responsible for sport in the Yukon, and Premier Sandy Silver is scheduled to be there tomorrow.

“I will tell you he is like our number one cheerleader out there,” Michaud said of the minister’s presence. “He is just so supportive of our athletes.”

“I have been cheering lots,” Streicker said in a phone interview. “There is lots to cheer about.

“We are walking around in our purple shirts and the whole place knows us.”

Streicker said everybody there is filled with support for the athletes.

The minister recalled watching a swim heat yesterday where the loudest cheers were for the slowest swimmer, and then recited a portion of athlete’s oath “be brave in the attempt.”

“It feels really magical,” he said.

Yukon’s contingent is made up of 20 athletes, eight coaches and three mission staff.

Among the quips from Yukon athletes caught on the record was bocce player Trevor Beemish in his quest for a blizzard: “I sure need to find that Dairy Queen.”

And from a member of the soccer team while the team was visiting the cairn built to commemorate the 2018 Games: “I wonder where the premier got the rock for the Cairn?”

Michaud explained premiers across the country were asked to provide a rock for the structure that supports the flame of the Games. The Yukon’s is marked with a Y.T.

The camaraderie among all 1,650 participants in Antigonish, including the 1,200 athletes, runs deep, said Michaud.

He recalled this morning’s bronze medal run by McIntyre.

The race included the top three 1,500-metre runners who broke away early, and McIntyre led for quite a bit of it. In the last lap, he was passed by Maxime Duguay of Quebec, a Canadian teammate three years ago for the 2015 World Games in Los Angeles. And it was a photo finish for silver and bronze, right at the line.

But when one of the other runners collapsed after finishing, McIntyre went to his assistance, helped him up and gave him water.

Tom Gibbs, president of Special Olympic Yukon who watched the 1,500-metre final this morning, said the competition is “exhilarating and heartwarming at the same time.”

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