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Hearts of Gold: Cranbrook’s Special Olympians take Winter World Games

Special Olympic athlete Jonathan Robins shows off his Team Canada jacket in Cranbrook prior to heading to the 2017 Special Olympic World Winter Games in Austria.  - Brad McLeod
Special Olympic athlete Jonathan Robins shows off his Team Canada jacket in Cranbrook prior to heading to the 2017 Special Olympic World Winter Games in Austria.
— image credit: Brad McLeod

“I will have fun. I will have fun out there.”

Jonathan Robins is a competitor, but he has his priorities in order.

The 32-year-old alpine skier will be competing in his second Special Olympic World Winter Games this week, but as much as he wants to be the best, he is happy just doing what he loves.

“I hope to win a medal this year,” he admits, however.

With 27 years of skiing experience, Robins made his debut as a skier on the world stage at the 2013 games in PyeongChang, South Korea where he picked up a bronze medal and a sixth-place ribbon.

This time around, he will be returning for an even bigger competition in Graz and Schladming, Austria from March 14 to 25.

With 3,000 athletes from over 100 countries, including 148 Canadians and approximately 500 skiing competitors alone, the Games in Austria will be an action-packed affair. Having a lot on your plate is nothing new for Robins however.

While he chose skiing as his designated winter sport for world competition, he is a multi-sport athlete to say the least.

“[On] Mondays [I play] bowling and basketball, Tuesday [is] curling, Wednesday [is] swimming [and] Thursday [is] night skiing,” Robins says. “Friday and Saturday [are] my days off [and then] Sunday is day skiing.”

And that’s just his winter schedule. In the summer, Robins will be playing softball at the National Summer Games in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.

In addition to his busy sports schedule, Robins holds down two jobs, at Waste Management and Aaron’s Furniture.

As a lifelong Kootenays resident, who was born in Jaffray before moving to Cranbrook, he is always excited by the chance to travel thanks to the Special Olympics, something he’s been participating in since 2002.

“I like to see other places,” he says, explaining that just this year he’s been to Toronto, Sun Peaks, Jasper, Kamloops and Kelowna with fellow Team Canada Special Olympians.

Getting selected to participate at the Games in Austria this year was a long process. Robins had to qualify regionally, and then provincially and nationally over the past three years.

Picking up three gold medals in Kamloops at the 2015 Provincials and two golds and a silver in Corner Brook, Newfoundland at the 2016 Nationals, Robins should be a force to be reckoned with in Austria.

He’s just as interested in meeting his peers and soaking in the whole experience as he is in winning though.

“I am excited to see all the people,” he said. “There’s floor hockey, cross country skiing, speed skating [and] snowshoeing [...] I like to trade pins with the others. I trade Canadian pins for other country’s pins.”

Joining Robins from the Cranbrook delegation of Team Canada are fellow skiers Erin Thom and Roxana Podrasky.

Thom is a veteran of the Special Olympic Games. At 37-years-old, she’s already competed as an alpine skier at the BC Games six times, the Canada Games five times, and the Worlds four times.

Her medal count is too high for her to even keep track of, with 16, mostly golds, from national and international competition alone.

Podrasky, on the other hand, is a newcomer to the World Games but has already won six combined BC and Canada Games medals.

Robins is excited to have his friends be able to join him at this year’s Games saying that “it’s pretty nice” for them to all experience Austria together.

The three skiers will join 13 other Canadian teammates and participate in Slalom, Giant Slalom and Super-G events, amongst a number of other activities.

The opening ceremonies will take place on March 18 and the Games will close on the 24th.

According to the Special Olympics website, “the vision of Special Olympics is to gain [the] positive attributes of sport [for] athletes, families and volunteers from all over the world.”

Robins certainly embodies the spirit of the games and also takes pride in his community and nation.

His prediction for how the country will fare?

“I think Canada is going to do pretty awesome.”

 

 

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