When figure skating coach Jessica Chapelski (Vancouver) decided to help out with the Special Olympics BC program for a few weeks, little did she know that she would be a champion for the program 15 years later.
“I never went back – Special Olympics sucked me in,” she says.
In addition to coaching Vancouver skater Tin-Yee Ho at the Canada Winter Games in PEI, she is on a mission to promote meaningful inclusion in sport. For Special Olympics athletes, their disability can be less visible, so it often takes time for other athletes to know what to say and what to do.
“You can tell at the beginning that there’s a bit of uncertainty from the other athletes,” she says. “At first, they are not quite sure – this person seems a bit different.” But, in her experience coaching at three Canada Winter Games, “without fail, by the end of the Games, they [the other skaters] are right there with them. It’s not me saying you must include them – the skaters do it on their own,” Chapelski says.
Here in PEI, 18-year-old Tin-Yee Ho won a silver medal in the Special Olympics level II event. Sitting down with the coach for a chat after her skate, Ho says “it was helpful to have the support” of other Team BC skaters.
“I didn’t really see them, but I could hear them,” Ho says.
She is particularly inspired by seeing how the other athletes compete on the ice.
“It’s nice to see the other programs,” and other skating elements. Ho is now turning her attention to her BC teammates to “cheer as loud as the clappers can be.” She adds being at the Village with the other athletes is “enjoyable” and a “new experience.”
Inclusion at the Games goes beyond the skaters, says Chapelski. “We have a great BC coaching team. We talked ahead of the Games about inclusion and respecting diversity.”
In addition to coaching her athletes, Chapelski says the Canada Games are an opportunity for more exposure to the Special Olympics program and to recruit more volunteers. “For sure, I will shamelessly promote our program and have volunteers come to us.”
After the Red Deer 2019 Games, three Team BC athletes reached out to her to get involved with learn-to-skate programs.
Read more about Tin-Yee Ho and Special Olympics British Columbia: Figure skater Tin-Yee Ho to showcase her abilities at the 2023 Canada Games | Special Olympics British Columbia
- Filed by Sam Corea (@sammy_sez), Team BC Communications Staff
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