Mike Cook has been working out at the gym regularly to shape up for the tournament.

Local bowlers up against the country’s best in PEI

Three members of Castlegar’s Special Olympics bowling team heading to nationals next week

It’s a gorgeous spring afternoon outside — hot, blue skies and sunshine. But inside a quonset building in downtown Castlegar, three dedicated young men are hard at work indoors – bowling.

They’re members of Castlegar’s Special Olympics bowling team, and they’re practising for the Canadian SO Bowling Championships in Prince Edward Island next week.

Mike Cook, Wayne Jones and Thomas Bell are taking their upcoming trip to the 5-and-10-pin finals very seriously. They’ve been bowling several times a week in the lead up to the big trip – and doing some rigorous physical training.

“I’ve been really working out, swimming twice a week, lifting weights, 100 pounds on my shoulders, arms and legs, 20 on my stomach doing situps, and cardio for 15 minutes,” says Cook. “It helps with your precision and technique. When you’re using your legs and arms, they have to be strong.

“I’m really proud of myself, having to make my weaknesses become my strengths, so I can be strong at the nationals.”

The three men won’t be representing Castlegar at the event, as the local team didn’t make the provincials. Instead, they’ve been picked up by teams in Cowichan and Comox to replace members of those qualifying teams who couldn’t make the trip.

“I am happy and excited to be going,” says Jones. For him, bowling is a great social activity. “It gives me something to do, I get to hang out with friends, meet other people, and go out-of-town.

“I hope I bring some gold home and do my best.”

Thomas Bell says he’s looking forward to the trip, but is a little concerned about what it will be like in P.E.I.

“I suppose I am excited, but I’m also a little apprehensive about sleeping conditions,” he says. “I am sure we’ll get a bed… but I have a hard enough time getting to sleep here in my own time zone, moving three to four hours ahead is going to be a bit much.”

In all, 56 athletes from B.C. will travel to the East Coast for the championships, being held from May 15-19. The delegation includes the athletes, 12 coaches, and three mission staff members, representing 23 communities across British Columbia.

Team BC 2018 members qualified for the provincial squad through their performances at the 2017 Special Olympics BC Summer Games in Kamloops.

“Team BC 2018 bowlers are ready to hit the lanes and represent their province with pride at the 2018 Special Olympics Canada Bowling Championships,” says Leslie Thornley, Team BC 2018 Chef de Mission. “These athletes have been training very hard to elevate their performance, and this will be an excellent opportunity for them to show their skills and sportsmanship on the national stage.”

Bell says he’s not trying to get too worried about his performance against the rest of the country.

“I am sure I’ll be happy to do well, but you can’t get too low or too high on yourself,” he says. “How many times have I got a double strike, and then going for a turkey. I let it get in my head. The more things I let into my head, the more it gets to me.”

Cook also wanted to ensure their coaches – Roland Handley and Lynn Smith – get the credit they deserve.

“Our coaches are awesome, I really appreciate those guys,” he said. “They help us, they’re dedicated to us, they work on us one-on-one to make sure we are doing things the right way, and then let us have fun and do things the way we like to do it, but at the same time make sure we understand, so we can bowl our best.”

Approximately 410 athletes, coaches, and support staff will be in P.E.I. for the National Bowling Championships. At the event, 10-pin bowlers will compete for the opportunity to represent Canada at the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi.

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Wayne Jones says the coaches have been instrumental in helping them improve their game.

Thomas Bell is trying not to let the pressure of the nationals affect his performance.

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