At just 17 years old, Austin Horrox could already be considered a veteran snowshoer. The Special Olympics Manitoba athlete has competed in snowshoeing at regional, provincial, national and international levels. He has inspired his entire family to come out and cheer him on in competition. And, under a phys education leadership program, Austin is also planning to introduce his grade 12 classmates to the sport of snowshoeing.
Special Olympics is for athletes of all ages with intellectual disabilities. Austin has been snowshoeing since he was nine and has been involved in Special Olympics for even longer, most recently training under Manitoba Head Snowshoe Coach Joanne Zahaiko. Austin says he likes snowshoeing because “it lets me hang out with friends and get outdoors for some exercise.”
“Austin has progressed incredibly through Special Olympics’ snowshoeing program,” says Joanne. “His skill as an athlete was apparent the first time I saw him on snowshoes. Austin has steadily improved his focus during practices and competition while increasing his endurance. He is also very determined, practicing skills and techniques until he gets them right.”
(Photo caption: Grandpa Ed rarely misses one of Austin’s snowshoe competitions.)
Austin was selected as a member of Team Manitoba for Canada’s 2008 Special Olympics National Winter Games in Quebec City, where he qualified to represent Canada the following year at the World Winter Games in Boise, Idaho. In Boise, Austin had top-ten finishes in the 100 and 200 metre snowshoe races, his two best events. As Joanne says, “Austin performed well in his races, was a great support to his teammates, and made the most of his experience by participating in all activities with great enthusiasm. He was justifiably very proud of his progress and accomplishments in Boise.”
Austin reports that he had a blast in Boise. There was great snow for snowshoeing, he made new friends from all over the world, was interviewed for a television spot and joined in the social fun with his characteristic sense of humour. He even tried his hand at singing karaoke.
Austin’s mother, Kim Horrox, credits Special Olympics for much of Austin’s progress both on and off snowshoes: “His commitment and determination have been honed by the structure, support and discipline of the Special Olympics programs.”
Austin keeps a training journal that helps him focus on his progress, complementing his time on the snow with a dry land training regime of push-ups, sit-ups and treadmill. According to Kim, “Special Olympics deserves much of the credit for Austin’s development as an athlete and as a young man who is outgoing, relates well to others and is supportive of his peers.”
Austin is currently in training for the Manitoba Provincial Games which will be held in February 2011, and has his sights set on qualifying for Canada’s next Special Olympics National Games – scheduled for 2012 in St. Albert, Alberta. As a dedicated young snowshoer and advocate of the sport, Austin Horrox has lots to look forward to.