Two athletes involved in Semiahmoo House Society have brought back medals from the Special Olympics World Summer Games.
Stacey Kohler and Derek Tomm both won bronze with Team Canada earlier this month in Athens, Greece, where more than 7,000 athletes in 21 sports competed over nine days.
Kohler, 28, won bronze in the 3,000-metre race (she placed sixth in her second event, the 1,500 metre) while soccer player Tomm, 35, and his 10-person Canadian team beat Austria 4-1 to capture bronze in their division.
“That felt good,” Tomm said of the win, noting the U.S. won gold and Spain took silver. “I was pretty proud of the team, we did very well.”
Tomm is a 15-year Special Olympics veteran, and helped his team snag gold at the 2007 World Summer Games in Shanghai.
At this year’s event – held June 24 to July 4 – one of the highlights was walking into the stadium with the other Canadian athletes in the opening ceremonies.
“I had to march in and they called us by countries, so they called out the Canadians and we all waved,” the Delta resident said.
Kohler’s mother said she was brought to tears to see her daughter amongst the athletes, representing her country.
“Very emotional,” Beryl Kohler said. “Here she is competing at the world level – it was just amazing.
“I was really proud of her.”
Beryl said the track events were held in a stadium used for the 2004 Olympics, and some athletes ran barefoot or while wearing the cultural garments of their country.
“It was just very, very exciting to see them all running together,” she said. “It was just amazing to be a part of this Special Olympic movement on a world level and see all these countries come together for a common purpose.”
Kohler – who is involved in Semiahmoo House’s catering program – now plans to return to her job at the local Choices Market.
Tomm – active in the society’s Employment Training and Support program – said the recent competition was his last with soccer, and he is looking forward to trying his hand at other sports.
“I’m going to try something different,” he said. “I’ll probably be doing swimming or basketball.
“I just want to try something new.”