Special Olympians at Provincial Games

When Jennifer Germann sprints through the snow during a race, she thinks about freedom.

That's her key word that gets her to the finish line.

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She'll have that mantra in her head when she competes in the 100, 200, and 400-metre snowshoe races at the Special Olympics B.C. Provincial Winter Games in Kamloops this weekend.

"Mental training is huge," she said after a recent snowshoe practice behind AimHi. "I have to use my knees and legs too, but the toughest part is keeping my arms straight."

Germann is among 15 Special Olympics B.C. Prince George athletes at the Games this weekend.

Seven of them are competing in snowshoeing while eight are competing in cross-country skiiing.

Snowshoers include Tegan Raines and Adrian Rosen who are both in the 100, 200, 400 and 800m races and Marika VanHage in the 200, 400, 800 and 1,600m distances.

The remainder of the snowshoe team is Ruth Caldwell, Chase Caron and Michael Harris.

The Provincial Winter Games happen once every for years, and for some of them, it's their first time competing at the provincial level.

The Prince George athletes all competed at the 2014 regionals and from those results were chosen to represent the area in Kamloops.

Since then, many of the athletes have been training hard, five times per week. In addition to dryland training, as well as attending a performance class where they learn about mental training and nutrition, the snowshoers were outside in the field behind AimHi every Saturday for a 90-minute workout. The cross-country ski team trained twice per week at Otway.

"In our warm-up, we do arm circles, high knees, lunges and squats," said Raines, adding a steady pace is key for success in snowshoeing.

The Prince George cross-country team includes Rita Cavenaile, Barb Conway, Casey Westerman, Josh Pudney, Danny Lafreniere, Brian Whitfields, Kelly Hein and Chantal Chan.

The women will compete in 1, 2.5 and 5-km distances, while the men will compete in 2.5, 5 and 7.5-km races. They're coached by Calvin Dyck.

"I'm looking forward to skiing and meeting new friends and seeing old friends who live in different areas of the province," said Conway, who's been strapping on her skis for more than 10 years.

Cavenaile has been at the sport for more than 20 years and she said she enjoys it for the exercise.

The Games wrap up Sunday.

If athletes do well at the Provincial Games, they could earn a spot on the SOBC (Special Olympics B.C.) Team B.C. that will compete at the 2016 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games in Corner Brook, Nfld. in February, 2016.

From there, athletes have the chance to make the Canadian roster for the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria in 2017.

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