KAMLOOPS — After an annual tournament on the coast was cancelled, Special Olympics Basketball teams from across B.C.’s interior got together in Kamloops after a replacement tournament was put together by local organizers.
The tourney was held at NorKam Secondary over the weekend, and for the athletes who might have otherwise missed an opportunity to compete, the competition was a chance to meet new friends, reconnect with old pals, and wind up their season with some round ball.
“Life got in the way for the organizers [of the March Madness Tournament in North Vancouver] and they felt that this year we had to press pause,” Leah Briault explained. “Everyone really felt that we could do a tournament here. We actually invited six teams from Region 2: Summerland, Salmon Arm, Vernon, Penticton, Kelowna, and Kamloops.”
Two of those teams, Vernon and Kelowna, made the trip on Friday and the hosts split their squad into two teams, so organizers put together a little round robin for the teams to test their skills.
“Getting games and getting to travel is amazing,” Vernon Head Coach Brett Rouault said. “It’s a great experience team-wise, for team bonding and to get to compete against teams you wouldn’t compete against otherwise is good, just to see where we’re at because we just practice amongst ourselves all year.”
Vernon lost their final game to one of the Kamloops teams to finish out the tournament, but Rouault says his team didn’t make the trip to count their wins and losses.
“[Sportsmanship] is probably the main thing we go for,” Rouault said. “It’s getting the sportsmanship, having fun, and getting out with your teammates
These Special Olympics athletes practice all the time, but seldom get to play as many games as they might like. Briault says, in the end, the tournament was all about creating opportunities for these athletes to grow, both on and off the court.
“Whether we lose or win, everyone has a smile on their face,” Briault said. “It’s really about the athlete. Their oath is ‘Let me win. If I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.’ And I’d say this weekend, we succeeded with that.”
After it was all said an done, Const. Phil Wiles of the Kamloops RCMP came out dressed in his Red Serge, to hand out ribbons to the top three teams. It was just a little recognition for the hard work of the athletes, and for the organizers as well.
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