Corey Mulholland was the first Special Olympics Tillsonburg athlete to compete at the Special Olympics Canada Summer Games.
He was also the first medal winner. Mulholland brought home gold and bronze medals from the biggest-ever Canadian Special Olympics Summer Games in Vancouver with nearly 1,300 athletes and 700 coaches from across the country competing in 11 sports, July 7-12, at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
"I had fun," said Mulholland, who very much enjoyed the flight to British Columbia. "I made friends, and I met a lot of different teams. I met some people from PEI, and we played a game against Yukon, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba... there were a lot of teams from Quebec. The best part was flying somewhere far."
He also collected a lot of pins in exchange for Tillsonburg pins.
"I kept all of them," he smiled. "I finally got a Vancouver pin on the last day."
“Throughout the week, the athletes inspired all of us with their dedication, competitive spirit and sportsmanship,” said Cathy Priestner Allinger, chair of the Games organizing committee in a media release. “We saw records broken, personal bests achieved and indomitable spirit. These Games have been about working together to achieve something truly exceptional. The commitment and efforts of our Games Organizing Committee, our 1,000 plus outstanding volunteers, and our government and corporate sponsors made these Games truly special."
“Special Olympics Canada is extremely proud of all the athletes, their coaches and mission staff, the Games Organizing Committee and all of the local volunteers for making these not only the largest Games in Special Olympics Canada's history, but one of our best," said Sharon Bollenbach, CEO, Special Olympics Canada, in a media release. "The Games Organizing Committee's goal was to deliver a world-class event that put athletes first and they were successful. These Games will serve as a legacy for future Special Olympics Canada Games.”
With 358 athletes, Ontario had the largest contingent, followed by British Columbia and Quebec.
Mulholland, 24, was one of 200 fivepin bowling athletes competing in Richmond at The Zone Bowling Centre, a 45-minute bus ride from the university.
The fivepin bowlers, divided into 40 teams, practiced on Tuesday, July 8 to get used to the lanes, then competed Wednesday to Saturday, July 9-12, with two or three round-robin games per day against teams from other Ontario regions and other provinces. Saturday's games determined medal winners – there were 336 medals in total, including tenpin.
"We had three games on the first day," said Mulholland.
Individual divisions were determined by points over/under handicap. Mulholland, competing in the M8 Division, won a bronze medal.
"I got over my average."
His London region team (South West Ontario) won the gold medal in the A Division. His team members were from London (Lyn), Simcoe (Jason), Ingersoll (Jen) and Stratford (Lindsay). Other Ontario regional teams included Windsor, Chatham and Kingston.
"We had mixed teams from all over the place."
In the finals against a Brantford-area team, Mulholland and two teammates bowled over average.
"I was right up there in the final one. I got over my average. The other team, only two were over average and we had three points over."
Mulholland, who also had a solid qualifying tournament, credited his coach, Tom Foshay of London, for the team's improvement.
"Our coach taught us where to stand. Our coach showed us how to hold the ball and which pin to aim at. It was a lot of practice, and those tournaments (25 games to qualify)."
Corey's parents were at the Special Olympics Summer Games, but did not actually watch Corey bowling.
"We talked about it, and he bowls a lot better when we aren't there," said his mother Carolyn.
"I told them that," Corey nodded.
"So we made the decision not to watch," said Carolyn, "and the other parents took pictures for us."
Having his parents in the stands would have been nice, Corey agreed with a smile, but it felt better having two Summer Games medals.
"I need a stronger hook these (medals), these are heavy."
Unfortunately, fivepin bowling is not sanctioned by the USA (only ten-pin bowling), so the Canadian A Division fivepin champions will not be going to the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles.
"We would like to thank veryone who donated toward Corey's trip to the nationals," said Doug and Caroyln Mulholland. "Thank you to all family, friends and neighbours. And thank you Home Hardware, where Corey works, for the special fundraiser."
Corey's list of sponsors included Varro's Floor and Wall, Marwood Metal Fabrication, Battin Law Office, Knights of Columbus, Tillsonburg Firefighters Association, Prouse Electric, and Horizon Seeds.
In addition to fivepin and tenpin bowling, Special Olympics Summer Games athletes also competed in swimming, soccer, softball, rhythmic gymnastics, powerlifting, and athletics, as well as three new Summer Games sports – golf, basketball and bocce.
Mulholland, who also plays softball (his favourite sport along with bowling), basketball, golf and bocce, would love to qualify for the 2016 Summer Games in fivepin bowling. He is also keen to qualify with a Tillsonburg bocce team.
"I can go again," said Mulholland, noting he is eligible to return to the nationals if he qualifies again. "Maybe the whole (bocce) team could go, they're good too. We're hoping to. We have a good team so far."
Tillsonburg Special Olympics' bocce team, which practices Monday nights at the fairgrounds, recently placed second in a London tournament.
SPECIAL OLYMPICS ONTARIO
Special Olympics Ontario aims to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics promotes opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and develop skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympic athletes and the community. Over the past 40 years Special Olympics has grown from a modest program serving local athletes to become the world’s largest movement dedicated to promoting respect, acceptance, inclusion, and human dignity for people with intellectual disabilities through sports.