‘A lifetime experience’: Manitoba athletes gear up for Special Olympics winter games

Rachel Nickel is a Special Olympics veteran.

For 13 years, the Winnipegger has competed in multiple sports and is once again gearing up for a major competition.

“I am a snowshoer representing Team Manitoba… This is my second time representing Team Manitoba,” Nickel said.

In just a few weeks, Nickel will join athletes from coast to coast who are making their way to Calgary for the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games.

There are eight sports at this year’s event including five-pin bowling, alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, curling, figure skating, floor hockey, snowshoeing and speedskating.

Nickel will be focusing on her specialty, which is snowshoeing.

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“I will be doing two races, one in the 400-metres and one in the 800-metres, and this year I will be doing the 4×100-metre relay,” Nickel said.

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Nickel has been training hard for these games, running and dry-land training at the Sport Manitoba Performance Centre.

One of her coaches, Jacqueline Mazur, is pleased with the progress the whole team is making.

“They’ve all been working super hard, and I think since we started, they have all had a ton of improvement. You can tell they’ve all gotten stronger, bonded as a team,” Mazur said.

Mazur has coached other competitive athletes before, including those who competed at the 2023 Special Olympics World Summer Games.

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She knows the impact events like the upcoming winter games can have on overall athlete development.

“For some athletes, this is a once in a lifetime experience, and there’s so much beyond the competition that you can learn about yourself as an athlete. And you can learn life skills,” Mazur said.

Manitoba athletes will attend a staging camp before flying together to Calgary. There, they’ll get amped for the games and focus on their goals.

“I’m looking forward to doing my best and improving on my times and, hopefully, getting a medal or two,” Nickel said.

The games start Feb. 27 and run until March 2.


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