Battling a case of nerves before her first-ever regional competition, Special Olympian Anita Hahkala had to be persuaded vigorously by her coach Cindy Baker to actually compete.
It was a good thing she did.
Those words of encouragement must have been pretty special to Hahkala as she stole the show at the Summer Games in Kenora last weekend, hauling in a three first-place finishes.
Hahkala, competing in the 30-and-over age group, took top spot in the shot put with a throw of 7.8 metres, grabbed first in the running long jump (1.80 metres), and her run of 11.63 seconds in the 50 metres was also the best.
What’s more impressive is the fact she grabbed first place in the long jump after having her first two jumps disqualified.
“It’s her first year of competing and she did just excellent, we’re all very proud of her performance,” enthused Baker. “I had to spend three-quarters of an hour trying to convince her to come out . . . she’s just a wonderful athlete [and] she’s so very strong.”
Still, while Hahkala’s performance was the highlight for the local athletes, the rest of the group also did well. In fact, the three other Fort athletes competing there also brought home medals.
Dave Ducasse, a former national level athlete competing in track and field several years ago, made a triumphant return to the sport by taking home a first-place finish in the 400 metre run, clocking a time of 1:23.71 despite falling down.
He also hauled in three second-place finishes.
Ducasse, who won this year’s male athlete-of-the-year award here, took second in the shot put with a 6.7 metre throw, had the second-best running long jump at 2.67 metres, and finished second in the 200 metre run in a time of 36.73.
Meanwhile, Arlan Scott, competing in the 30-and-over division, placed second in the 50 metre run, finishing with a time of 9.72 seconds, and then hauled in a third-place finish with a throw of six metres in the shot put.
Angie Pernsky, the female athlete-of-the year, nailed down a first in the 50 metre run (for athletes aged 21-29) with a time of 12.49 and also finished second in the shot put with a throw of 3.8 metres.
She also performed the running long jump with a best mark of 1.26 metres.
As well as the group did on an individual basis, they also teamed up to place third in the 4x100 metre relay with a time of 1:35.75. The feat was particularly impressive since it was the first time the foursome had actually competed together in a relay race.
Baker praised the efforts of the local contingent, who were without teammate Penny Dick for the competition, and said the coaching staff was pleased with their final results against other athletes from Thunder Bay, Marathon, and Kenora.
The summer games were the final event, of what was another successful year, for the local Special Olympic athletes.
They held their annual awards night at the Elks Hall back in late May and the following awards were handed out:
Larry Flatt Memorial Trophy for sportsmanship:
•5-pin bowling--high single female, Joan Jourdain; male, Gerald Carrier; high double female, Cindy Boundy; high double male, Lynn McReady; high triple female, Karen Erwin; high triple male (Thomas Fraser); most improved male (Brad Holland); and most improved female (Rose Cunningham).
•5-pin bowling (Adapt program)--high single female, Joanna Fraser; high single male, John Pochailo; high double female, Tracey Zub; high double male, Elliot Skead; most improved female, Val Race; and Most improved male, Terry Hlynski.
•10-pin bowling--first-half high single, Stewart Skead; second-half high single, Gerald Nugent; first-half high double, Jack McLeod; second-half high double, Chris Strain; first-half most pins over average, Carrie Jolicoeur; second-half most pins over average, Sherri McNabb; and most improved Clifford Hatfield.
•Cross-country skiing--most improved female, Angie Pernsky; and most improved male Clifford Hatfield.
•Snowshoeing--most improved female, Joyce Gosselin; and most improved male (Arlan Scott).
•Power lifting--Arlan Scott.
•Swimming--top swimmer Angie Pernsky; most improved; Penny Dick
and most promising (Devon Stearns).