Special Olympian excited about trip to Nagano

When you browse through the Canadian Special Olympics’ website, you discover the athletes’ oath, which may be small in length but is overwhelming in statement.
“Let me win, but if I cannot, let me be brave in the attempt.”
This oath will be exemplified by the 72 athletes who will have the Maple Leaf stitched on their jackets for the 2005 Special Olympics Winter Games later this month in Nagano, Japan.
And Fort Frances will be there—in the person of Joyce Gosselin.
“I’m ready to get to Japan,” the first-time Olympian said. “I’m getting more excited as the time comes closer. I’m counting down the days.”
Gosselin will head to Nagano later this month (the event is slated for Feb. 26-March 6) to compete in the snowshoe portion of the Games. She will be racing in the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m relay events—and has only one colour in mind.
“I want the gold really bad. That’s what I’m hoping for,” said Gosselin, who was named Fort Frances Citizen of the Year back in November.
And her chances look good as her times have steadily improved in the 100m, which is her favourite event. But Gosselin concedes she still needs work in the 200m—and has never competed in a relay before.
In Atikokan for the regional qualifier a few years back, Gosselin clocked a time of 1:18 in the 100m. She then improved that time by one second for the provincials in Barrie two years ago.
But it was at the nationals in Prince Edward Island last February where Gosselin made her mark—dropping her time to 1:07 to get the gold draped around her neck.
She also wasn’t too shabby in the 200m, either, as she claimed a silver to go along with her gold with a time of 2:40.
Those times qualified Gosselin for the Special Olympic team and subsequently fulfill a life-long dream, which is shared by most active people.
“Nobody thought I’d come back with anything [from the nationals], maybe a third, but I knew I’d come back with the gold,” stated Gosselin, who hopes to break the one-minute mark in the 100m at Nagano.
Her hard work in an event she has competed in for six years finally is starting to pay off. This past December, Gosselin flew to Toronto, where she was part of a celebrity dinner held at the Westin Harbour Castle that served as a fundraiser for the Canadian Special Olympics movement.
There, she delivered a speech on what the Special Olympics meant to her, which resulted in tears in the eyes of many in attendance and a standing ovation.
“I had the audience crying and I had them cheering, and people asking for my autograph,” recalled Gosselin. “Little kids would come up to me and ask for my autograph and I’d be like, ‘Me?’”
So what do the Special Olympics mean to Gosselin?
“It means that you get to meet new people, and have the opportunity to excel in the sport that you’re in,” she replied. “It’s all up to you, and if you want it that bad, then you’ll get it.”
So does she want it that bad?
“Yeah. I mean, it’s a dream come true and I never thought it could happen, but I wanted it really bad and I got it,” said Gosselin. “I like to win. I don’t like to lose.”
But is she fulfilled?
“No. I’m still looking ahead. I want to come back with something, and not just a ribbon,” responded Gosselin, who suffers from diabetes and mild asthma that hasn’t affected her of late.
The snowshoe competition consists of six events (100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 1500m, and the 4x100m relay) and is one seven sports that will be seen at the Games.
Alpine skiing, Nordic (cross-country) skiing, figure and speed skating, floor hockey, and curling also will be showcased by close to 2,500 athletes from 80 countries.
They will be competing in some of the same venues used for the 1998 Olympic Winter Games and Paralympics in Nagano.
Gosselin and her Canadian teammates will be staying in Okaya (the venues are spread across the Nagano area, with the snowshoe event taking place in Hakuba). And she already has started to learn about the rich culture she will soon see.
“I’ve been reading up a lot of Japan lately. I’ve been getting library books and looking at maps,” said Gosselin, who also got some information from the Travel Bureau.
“When I go somewhere, I like to know where I’m going,” added Gosselin, who is coached locally by Gaby Hanzuk and Connie Wood, but will be instructed by Doug Caston of Winnipeg in Japan (Hanzuk and Wood will not be going).
This instalment of the Special Olympics will be the eighth edition of an event that has grown steadily since its inception and targeted for athletes that wouldn’t be able to competitively compete if it not were for the Games.
Three percent of the world’s population is diagnosed with intellectual disability, which is the largest disability group.
“Intellectual disability cuts across lines of race, education, social, and economic background. It can occur in anyone,” states the Special Olympics Canada website.
But what can’t occur in anyone is self-esteem, which is a valuable trait possessed by Gosselin, who is as equally smart, quick-witted, and endowed with a wonderful memory.
But one thing that might be going against Gosselin is her age, she admits. At 57, she is the oldest of the members of her snowshoe team and probably will be the oldest of all the snowshoe competitors (she will be celebrating her birthday in Nagano).
“I’m okay with that,” Gosselin said. “I’m going to prove that I can do it. I’m the oldest, so I want to show the younger ones that old people can do this, too.
“This is a trip of a lifetime. I dreamed of it, and always thought of it, but I never knew if I could make it,” she added. “But I hoped and I prayed.”
Amen to that.