TIMMINS -- Winter is in full effect in Timmins, creating ripe conditions for Nordic skiing and snowshoeing.

This new year brings different opportunities for Special Olympic athletes in Timmins, including a new snowshoeing coach.

Judi Duciaume is a Special Olympic snowshoeing coach for the Timmins chapter. She says she thrives when she’s around the athletes. 

“It’s been, I’m going to say, 15 years since I’ve coached, and it was something that was really missing from my life. They want to do their best and I love their spirit and their sense of sportsmanship. It’s refreshing and it’s energizing.”

John Sullivan, nordic skiing coach for Special Olympics Timmins, says he appreciates the athletes’ strong level of commitment.

“No matter how cold it is, they show up, week after week. So they must really love it,” he says. 

Jeffrey Mullaly says he truly does love it. He’s one of two local athletes who are training for the winter national games in Thunder Bay from Feb. 25-29. 

“I like going out just to go in the bush,” he says. “I like the quiet and just feeling the glide like when you’re going down the hills and whatnot.”

A long-serving volunteer with Special Olympics Ontario emphasizes the important role the organization has in the lives of youth and adults with developmental disabilities. 

“They were probably told at a very young age that they could never do this,” says Diane Wahlamn, the community coordinator for the Timmins chapter. “Here we have ... athletes that have gone to the worlds; they’ve gone to the Nationals,” she explains.

She hopes more youth will register for the fundamental program for children between the ages of five to 10, which will introduce them to a variety of sports. 

Duciaume also encourages more athletes to consider snowshoeing this winter and she asks those who are interested to meet her every Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Porcupine Ski Runners.