(From left) Cathy Skinner, Jack Fan & Katie Xu at the Ottawa airport. Photo provided
By Phi Trinh
Two figure skaters from the same local club returned home as world champions, collecting 2 medals apiece from the Mar. 17-24 Special Olympics World Games in Austria.
Jack Fan and Katie Xu of the Goulbourn Skating Club won gold and silver medals in their respective singles events, and then combined to win another gold together in team ice dance.
“They were excited,” recounts Cathy Skinner, Fan and Xu’s coach at Goulbourn, noting however that Fan in particular didn’t grasp the magnitude of his success, which perhaps served as a great weapon, she adds.
“He never seems to get nervous,” Skinner explains. “He just knows his job is to do what he always does day-to-day in practice.”
Xu, an Ottawa Public Library employee, is a multi-talented athlete, also swimming competitively in the summer. Both Fan, 20, and Xu, 18, have been skating for eight years, picking up plenty of honours on the way to qualifying for the World Games.
This season provided an additional challenge, however, since international rules and requirements differ a fair bit from the Canadian system.
“We had to learn a lot of new skills for both their free-skate program and the compulsory elements portion of their singles events, as well as learning new dances,” highlights Skinner, who wasn’t at all surprised by her athletes’ success given what she sees all the time at practice. “Hitting all their elements is quite normal for them. They are very consistent.
“Our numerous repetitions throughout the year help with their muscle memory and getting their programs setup early enabled us to practice them over and over for months.”
Xu and Fan received a colourful welcome upon returning home at the Ottawa airport, supporters waving mini Canadian flags, red pompoms and handmade signs. Fellow Ottawa athletes Michel Roy (gold & silver in nordic skiing) and Kevin Dooks (3 silver in snowshoeing) also brought home hardware from the World Games.
“People are becoming more aware and there is more visibility about their accomplishments,” signals Skinner. “Slowly but surely, Special Olympic athletes, or anyone with an intellectual disability are being accepted more readily into mainstream sports, school classrooms etc. However, we still have a far way to go.”