When 14-year-old Reise Collins selected snowshoeing from the list of available Special Olympics winter activities, his parents were a little surprised. Reise had never been on snowshoes before, nor had anyone else in the Collins family. Now, several months later, Reise is gaining proficiency on snowshoes every time he heads out with the Campbell River BC Special Olympics Snowshoe Team, and is also having a blast. Reise recently raced in his first regional competition, and has even inspired his parents to try snowshoeing. Not bad for a newcomer to the sport.
Special Olympics is for athletes of all ages with intellectual disabilities. This is distinct from the Paralympics, which is held immediately following the Olympics, and is for athletes with physical disabilities. Although Canadian Special Olympics athletes have been enjoying snowshoeing for many years, the sport was first introduced on the Special Olympics world stage at the 1997 World Games in Toronto. Today, Reise joins over 17,000 Special Olympics athletes worldwide who compete in snowshoeing.
With an athletic dad, Reise always had an interest in sports, although found that conventional sports programs didn’t always work for him. Less than a year ago, he joined Special Olympics and hasn’t looked back. Reise started with floor hockey and swimming, and looks forward to soccer and baseball in the spring. But for now, he’s having the time of his life tearing up the snowshoe trails on Vancouver Island’s beautiful Mt. Washington. The season started with dryland training, before moving up the mountain for weekly training sessions that include a warm-up, drills, races and maybe even throwing a few snowballs. Reise’s mother, Rosemary Collins, says “Reise has the biggest smile imaginable when he’s on snowshoes. He runs hard, laughs and has a great time. His coach and teammates are incredibly supportive and create a fun atmosphere every time.”
Rosemary has nothing but praise for the hard work and dedication of Reise’s coach, Maureen Brinson, who has devoted an astounding 25 years to coaching Special Olympics athletes. Maureen is equally happy to welcome Reise to the team. As she praises Reise’s enthusiasm and potential, Maureen also reflects on how athletes like Reise make her role as coach so rewarding.
“This past season has been a rejuvenating one for me. Twenty-one years ago a young athlete named Paul Aubuchon joined our snowshoe program. He went on to become a national champion in snowshoeing and a world champion in swimming. This year a new athlete joined our program who has equal enthusiasm and potential. Reise is the type of young athlete who adds life and enthusiasm to the whole team. His infectious smile, eagerness to try and natural ability make him wonderful to coach. It is incredibly rewarding for me to see the senior members of our team (Paul included) take pleasure in Reise’s accomplishments. They have taken on the role of mentors and consequently are sharing in the same pleasure I receive every time I help an athlete achieve a personal best or reach one of their goals.”
Sure enough, Reise came away from last weekend’s regional meet with competition experience, a handful of ribbons, and great memories. When asked what he enjoys most about snowshoeing Reise responds that he likes the running. For pure fun and love of the sport, it sounds like Reise Collins has a very bright future with Special Olympics snowshoeing. Best of luck, Reise.
To learn more about volunteering, donating or participating in Special Olympics, visit the following Web sites:
Special Olympics Canada: www.specialolympics.ca
Special Olympics U.S.: www.specialolympics.org