Hard work pays off for Special Olympians

It was an emotional effort put forth by four local Special Olympians at the provincial games last weekend in Sault Ste. Marie. And it was one that earned them successful results.
Ray Bedard, Dave Ducasse, Lisa Gushulak, and Arlan Scott collected a total of 11 track and field medals at the games to determine members for the provincial team that will compete at the nationals in Saskatchewan next summer.
Bedard was the most productive of the group. Competing in the male 30 and up age category, he captured gold medals in the 50m and 200m dashes, a silver in the long jump, and a bronze in the shot put.
Ducasse, also competing in the 30 and up division, won gold in the long jump and silver medals in each of the 200m and 1,500m races.
Gushulak, competing in the female 30 and up age group, made her first appearance at the provincial games a memorable one, winning gold in the long jump and a bronze in the 100m.
Scott, a last-minute replacement for Anita Hahkala, who couldn’t go due to personal reasons, took home bronze medals in the 50m and 200m races (age 30 and up).
Even though results have been posted and finalized, the athletes won’t know if they’ve qualified for the nationals until a long evaluation process ends in six to seven months, said track assistant coach and regional director Gaby Hanzuk.
Bedard is the leading candidate to represent Ontario next year.
The four earned the right to attend the provincial games by posting strong results at the Zone 1 games in Kenora back on June 22-24.
For now, the team and coaches are simply enjoying their most recent accomplishment.
“Coming into it, they didn’t have high hopes,” noted track coach Cindy Baker. “But there were a lot of happy tears afterwards.
“I don’t know who cried more after, them or me,” she added.
Hanzuk said the entire track team’s effort in their weekly practices at the St. Francis Sportsfield was evident in the results at Sault Ste. Marie.
“Between [Baker and I], we’re pretty proud of these guys,” she said.
“Personally, there was no big surprise that our four athletes did so well because they were very dedicated and they worked very hard,” she added. “They had goals and they achieved them.”