Special Olympics Team Canada ready to take on the world at the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games

Special Olympics Team Canada's Honourary Coach Catriona Le May Doan revs up her team at their big send off before heading to compete in the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea. (CNW Group/Special Olympics Canada)

VANCOUVER, Jan. 24, 2013 /CNW/ - One hundred and two athletes and 39 coaches and mission staff from 87 communities nationwide touched down in Vancouver today, gathering as Special Olympics Team Canada for a day of send-off celebrations.

This is the first time the team has been together in one place. Led by Winnipeg's Jennifer Campbell, Chef de Mission, Special Olympics Team Canada leaves on January 25 for the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea from Vancouver International Airport.  The 2013 World Winter Games run from January 29 to February 5, 2013.

"Being a competitive athlete takes dedication, and Special Olympics Team Canada has worked hard to reach this level of international competition," Campbell said. "The athletes have made significant gains as a result of the yearlong national team training program, and are very excited to represent Canada on the world stage."

For most of the athletes, they started their day with a long flight to Vancouver. They were greeted with a send-off celebration rally at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport, featuring three Olympic medallists: Cathy Priestner Allinger (2014 Special Olympics Summer Games Organizing Committee), Steve Podborski (TELUS) and Special Olympics Team Canada's Honorary Coach, Catriona Le May Doan. The Honourable Bal Gosal, Minister of State (Sport) joined the 141-person team for its team dinner, bringing greetings from the Government of Canada, Special Olympics Canada's most significant financial supporter.

Competing at the Special Olympics World Games is the culmination of four years of dedicated training, joyful achievements, and significant improvements by the athletes who qualified for Special Olympics Team Canada 2013 based on their performances at the 2012 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games in St. Albert, Alberta. They reached the National Games by advancing through regional and provincial/territorial competitions in their home provinces and territories in the two years leading up to the 2012 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games.

"I am so proud to lead Special Olympics Team Canada, and so grateful to our national partners whose help makes this life-changing experience a reality," Campbell continued. "We are grateful in particular for the exceptional support of the Government of Canada and Sport Canada, which is vital in making our national team's journey possible."

In addition, TELUS announced at the rally that the company is giving every member of the team a phone so they can remain in touch with their family and friends while competing in Pyeongchang and Gangneung.

"I'm thrilled TELUS has been able to provide our Special Olympics team with technology to help them stay in touch with their loved ones while they are representing Canada in Pyeongchang," said TELUS vice-president Dan Golberg. "As Vice Chair of the Special Olympics Canada Board of Directors, I'm so proud TELUS has been able to support our athletes and make it possible for them to celebrate their upcoming accomplishments with family halfway around the world."

Special Olympics Canada also announced the launch of its first Facebook application, Cheer On Special Olympics Team Canada, at the noon send-off event. Developed by BIMM, the Cheer On app is a visual representation of support for the athletes, coaches and mission staff with Special Olympics Team Canada. Users are invited to browse a map and "shout out" to one of the team's athletes, coaches, or mission staff members, competing from ten provinces and two territories, or to cheer on the entire team.

The 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games is the largest sporting event in the world this year. Facts about the games as well as Special Olympics Team Canada fact sheets and backgrounders, can be found at www.teamcanada2013.ca/media-centre

Follow Special Olympics Team Canada
      Web www.teamcanada2013.ca | www.equipecanada2013.ca
      Facebook & Twitter SpecialOCanada | #SOTeamCanada

About Special Olympics Canada

Established in 1969, the Canadian chapter of this international movement is dedicated to enriching the lives of Canadians with an intellectual disability through sport. Operating in all Canadian provinces and territories except Nunavut, this grassroots movement reaches beyond the sphere of sport to empower individuals, change attitudes, and build communities. From two-year-olds to mature adults, there are more than 35,000 children, youth, and adults with an intellectual disability registered in Special Olympics year-round sport programs across Canada. More than 17,100 volunteers, including more than 13,500 trained coaches, support them. For more information, connect with us on Facebook and Twitter (handle: SpecialOCanada).

Image with caption: "Special Olympics Team Canada's Honourary Coach Catriona Le May Doan revs up her team at their big send off before heading to compete in the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea. (CNW Group/Special Olympics Canada)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20130124_C8655_PHOTO_EN_23024.jpg

SOURCE: Special Olympics Canada

For further information:

For information and interview requests:

Mary-Margaret Jones
Public Relations and Marketing
Special Olympics Canada
416.909.5911 (until January 26)
416.927.9050 ext. 4383 (January 26 onward)
mmjones@specialolympics.ca

Megan Grittani-Livingston
Communications Liaison
Special Olympics Team Canada
604.737.3077
megan@specialolympics.bc.ca