Athletes bettered by Games competition and camaraderie

Oak Bay athletes enjoy rewarding experience at the BC Winter Games

Oak Bay’s Myles Kitson enjoyed a successful BC Winter Games with the Special Olympics basketball team.

Oak Bay’s Myles Kitson enjoyed a successful BC Winter Games with the Special Olympics basketball team.

Vancouver Island-Central Coast finished fifth at the BC Games with 53 medals: 14 gold, 23 silver and 16 bronze. The Special Olympics basketball team won nothing and still came home winners.

The team, composed of players who came together for the first time in Penticton, included three players each from south, mid and north Island, including Oak Bay athlete Myles Kitson. Along with the lack of team practice time, and already at a disadvantage height-wise, the team was also down its tallest member due to injury right out of the gate.

None of it bothered Kitson, who instead garnered fame at the Games, said his mom Debbie Seto-Kitson.

“Myles thoroughly enjoyed his time at the Games. He ate and danced too much and stayed up too late. At the opening ceremony, during a hip hop performance on stage, Myles stood up amidst the other 2,000 participants sitting on the floor and started dancing to the music. It was the talk about town the next day.”

She and her husband Kevin found the spectators as special as the athletes themselves as cheers erupted anytime a ball went through either hoop.

“(They) clearly understood the true meaning of that old saying ‘It is not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game,’” she said.

The provincial tournament also provided self-improvement opportunities for the young Oak Bay man.

“As it was his first time travelling without parents or an assistant, he learned a great deal about taking care of himself,” Seto-Kitson said.

“At the end, he gained many new friends, greater confidence – both on and off the basketball court – and only lost a few basketball games and his water bottle.”

Figure skater Emily Walzak of View Royal, who regularly trains at Oak Bay Recreation Centre, was among the gold medal winners. The Zone 6 Special Olympics BC women figure skaters all earned places on the podium in the BC Winter Games in Penticton Feb. 25 to 28.

“It was a great showing,” coach Tess Van Straaten said in an email from the Games.

Walzak took gold in category 3, Kimberly Giesbrecht of Port Alberni won silver in category 3 and Desiree Grubell of Saanich won silver in category 2. Walzak and Grubell regularly train at Oak Bay Recreation Centre.

Figure skating and bastketball are the only two Special Olympics categories in the BC Games.

Competing in their division of the BC Winter Games, Oak Bay’s Horwood twins finished in the top four with Christopher skating a personal best – his goal for these Games – and earned bronze medal in the process.

John finished just behind his brother in fourth, “a little disappointed with his performance, but excited for his brother,” said mom Tina Horwood.

The zone’s rhythm gymnastics team achieved its goal as well at the Games – do do well in the team competition.

The Vancouver Island – Central Coast foursome finished second. Oak Bay’s Elisabeth Foss (Willows elementary) and her teammates at Victoria Rhythmic Gymnastics Club, Michaela Brennan, Katherine Evans and Lily Williams, brought home a silver medal.