Josh Boudreau, the Northwest Territories’ only representative at the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games, is coming home with two gold medals.
The 19-year-old speed skater won the 777m and 1,000m distances at the Games in Thunder Bay this week. He also picked up silver in the 333m and finished fourth over 500m.
“It feels great,” Boudreau told Cabin Radio from Thunder Bay. “I was hoping to just do my best.”
This marks the Yellowknife teenager’s first appearance at an event of this stature.
“It feels really nice to be going here for the first time and winning medals. It was fun,” he said.
Boudreau, competing against more than 50 speed skaters from across Canada in Thunder Bay, was the lone NWT athlete in any of the Games’ eight sports.
Coach Jeanne Yurris said Boudreau had been “adopted” by the Saskatchewan team and even developed his own local fan club in the northwestern Ontario community. He made two appearances in Thunder Bay’s local newspapers over the course of the week.
“Josh really won the hearts of everybody in Thunder Bay,” said Yurris. “Yesterday, there were a couple classes from one of the local schools who had chosen Josh to sponsor for the Games. So they did a fundraiser for Special Olympics and they raised over $1,000.
“And then the whole class made signs. There were 72 students, they made signs and they came to the rink to cheer Josh on during his 1,000m race.
“That was really exciting. He went from having, you know, three people cheering for him to having everyone in the stands cheering.”
‘Such a great day’
Yurris said Boudreau is no stranger to the podium at other events but she was still impressed by his success at Canada Winter Games level.
“It was a really, really good surprise. In the 777m he had such a great day, a great race, starting from the back of the pack and working his way up – because he likes to stress me out as a coach,” she joked.
“This morning I said, ‘You know what, Josh, yesterday was great. Whatever happens today, I’ll be happy.’
“And then he turns around and wins another gold and silver. I can’t complain about that at all.”
Boudreau is part of a strong Special Olympics speed skating program in Yellowknife, which also features the likes of Conlan McKee, Chris Strus, and Clara Tutcho.
McKee, Strus, and Tutcho were competing at the territory’s own annual speed skating championship in Yellowknife on Sunday.
World opportunity in jeopardy
Ordinarily, Boudreau’s results in Thunder Bay would merit his consideration for Team Canada at the Special Olympics World Winter Games, due to be held in February 2021.
However, the event’s local organizers in Sweden were unable to find the money to run the Games and have now pulled out.
That means Boudreau may miss out on the opportunity to compete for his country if no alternative venue can be found.
Special Olympics International said it “remained optimistic about discussions with potential hosts” to replace Sweden.