Bedard to hunt for gold on Emerald Isle

It’s not the luck of the Irish that has caused Raymond Bedard to become one of the top Special Olympics athletes in Canada.
Rather, the 44-year-old Fort Frances resident’s outstanding performance this year is a product of his three-day-a-week schedule of both weightlifting and cross-training that he calls the toughest he’s ever experienced.
But the sweat and pain have not been without their rewards, as Bedard qualified in four different track and field events at the national championships earlier this year to earn a berth on the Canadian team heading to Dublin, Ireland for the Special Olympics World Summer Games on June 20-29.
“It was nice, considering you have to be one of the top 16 [track] athletes out of 700 or 800 in Canada to make it,” said Bedard, who began participating in Special Olympics four years ago as a way to stay active in sports and meet people.
“I’ll be nervous going over, but it will be a good kind of nervous.”
Bedard made the grade at the nationals in the 50-m and 200-m dashes, as well as the running long jump and shot put.
Athletes only are allowed to compete in two individual and one relay event at the World Games, but the decision of which baskets to put his eggs in wasn’t difficult for Bedard.
“The 50-m dash at the world level is only for the more severely handicapped, and I thought that my best shot to do well was in the 200-m and the running long jump,” he remarked.
His coach, Cindy Baker, good-naturedly chided her star pupil after he brushed off the notion his success has come from anything else but putting his nose to the grindstone.
“He’s a natural athlete, although he does work hard, too,” said Baker, who won’t be able to accompany Bedard to Ireland because of the limit on the number of coaches Team Canada can bring along.
“In the long jump at both [the] provincials and nationals, he won the event even though he doesn’t have any cleats right now and he was competing against people who did have cleats,” she noted.
His involvement in Special Olympics also gave Bedard a chance to meet some of Canada’s best-known sports personalities as an invited guest at the TSN Special Olympics charity auction earlier this month in Toronto.
“I wasn’t even supposed to go, but two other athletes who were selected couldn’t make it,” said Bedard, who spent time chatting with celebrities such as Anthony Calvillo, quarterback of the Grey Cup champion Montreal Alouettes, and head coaches Mike “Pinball” Clemons (Toronto Argonauts) and Pat Quinn of Bedard’s beloved Toronto Maple Leafs.
“They’re just like you and me, just better paid,” laughed Bedard.
It will be Canadian eyes instead of Irish ones that will be smiling come June if Bedard gets his wish.
“I don’t think I’m going to do all this training for nothing,” he vowed. “I’m coming back with something.”
And that guarantee is as good as gold for his coach.
“If he says he’s going to do something, he’s going to do it,” said Baker. “He said it at nationals and he did it.”
(Fort Frances Times)