NWT’s Chelsey Makaro to compete in Special Olympics World Games
This summer, Yellowknifer Chelsey Makaro will be one of 89 athletes representing Team Canada at the 2023 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Berlin, Germany.
The 21-year-old swimmer will compete after taking part in meets across Canada, from Kelowna to Toronto, where her success earned her a spot on Canada’s national team.
The Special Olympics World Games are held every two years and offer athletes with intellectual disabilities from around the globe the opportunity to showcase their talent, skill and athleticism.
“I’m excited,” said Makaro of the upcoming trip.
In May, Makaro will head to Vancouver for a Team Canada training camp before continuing on to the World Games from June 17-25 with coach Lexie Letzing. It was Letzing that encouraged Makaro to enter the qualifying competitions.
“When she was swimming with Special O last year, a lot of the coaches and volunteers were commenting on her coachability, her ability to catch on and really respond to feedback, and that’s a really great quality to have in an athlete,” said Letzing.
“That sparked us to think of Chelsey to represent the NWT.”
While Makaro has been participating in sports programs with Special Olympics NWT for years, and swimming since the age of five, this will be her first time competing at international level.
“It’s something we never thought about at all,” said Chelsey’s father, Wade Makaro, “and then Lexie approached us at the Special Olympics and called us in for a meeting, and said, ‘We’d like to talk to you about a possibility.’ We left amazed, just grateful that we would even have this opportunity.”
Wade says Special Olympics and Inclusion NWT, a non-profit that supports people with disabilities and their families, have had a significant impact on his family.
“They’re just so incredible, and they don’t get as much recognition as I would want. But they’ve helped us so much. Chelsey just fit right in with the other folks right away. She comes back telling us about making crafts or going out with the Odd Job Squad,” he said. “She’s made so many friends there.”
Letzing, who is also from Yellowknife, has been a sport program coordinator and coach with Special Olympics NWT for several years, and has seen first-hand the positive impact sports can have on athletes like Makaro.
“I think it’s a really good opportunity for them to exercise their independence and show people that they’re just like any other athletes,” she said. “They experience different hurdles in life, but they’re still competing in a sport that they love and enjoy.”
NWT Special Olympics athletes compete in bowling, swimming and speed skating events. Letzing would like even more opportunities for competition in the future.
“We really encourage and challenge other territorial sports organizations to help close and bridge that gap between generic sport and Special Olympic sport opportunities,” said Letzing.
“Equity, diversity and inclusion are so important, and we would love to be invited to more competitions, because we can compete just like any other team.”
Makaro will be training hard over the next few weeks, using a combination of weights, cardio and rowing to stay in top form for the competition.
Is she nervous about competing on the world stage?
“Not that much, just the beeping,” she says with a smile, referring to the sound that marks the start of the race. “I like being in the water. It’s fun.”