MEDAL WINNERS: Comox Valley Vipers floor hockey players [from second left] Andrew Swindlehurst, Tanya Norman and Robert Lang and assistant coach Tarra Tipton [far left] recently returned home to Powell River with silver medals following Special Olympics Nationals in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Paul Galinski photo
Comox Valley Vipers won silver in the top floor hockey division at the Special Olympics Nationals, held February 25 to 29 in Thunder Bay, Ontario, one of 145 medals for Team BC at the competition.
“It’s our second time placing second in Canada,” said Vipers’ assistant coach Tarra Tipton, who leads training for the three Powell River-based players. “The athletes are proud of themselves, even though they were hoping for gold in 2020.”
The competition started with divisioning rounds, where the 16 teams compete to be seeded into four divisions. Vipers played two games before being selected for the top division.
“We were pretty sure we’d be in the A division because we have a really high calibre team,” said Tanya Norman, a Powell River resident who plays on the Vipers. “We were in the division with the Peterborough Wolves for Ontario and Team Manitoba. We hadn’t seen Ontario play before, but once we got a feel for them and changed our strategy a little, we were able to compete with them. Manitoba wasn’t quite as tough an opponent, but they had some really good players.”
Vipers played their first round-robin matches on February 27, losing to Ontario 4-1 and winning against Manitoba 6-1. The following day they tied Ontario 3-3 and dominated Manitoba 8-0.
“The more games we played, the closer we got to getting our positioning and game plan right,” said Tipton. “After our fourth round-robin game, we knew we’d be in the gold medal game against Ontario.”
The game started well, with the Vipers up 2-0 early in the second period. Ontario came back to tie, however, and after the Vipers gave up a penalty, were able to take the lead 3-2.
“We scored in the last minute of play to tie the game again,” said Norman. “Then Ontario scored again with only two seconds left. There was nothing we could do in only two seconds.”
The 4-3 loss in the last moment of the game was disheartening, but the athletes have nothing to be dissatisfied with, according to Tipton.
“They showed so much determination and perseverance over the seven days in Thunder Bay,” said Tipton. “The training has been long and hard and we came home exhausted, but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat, and I am pretty confident the athletes feel the same way.”
While nationals marks the end of the floor hockey season, Special Olympics Powell River continues to provide other opportunities for sport.
“I’m getting ready for regional qualifiers in swimming, which is a summer sport,” said Norman. “Special Olympics Powell River has gotten a lot of support from the community the last few years, and we really appreciate it.”
Tipton agreed, and also wants the community to know that sport opportunities exist for those who meet Special Olympics athlete qualifications.
“We went to nationals with quite a few pick-up players,” she said. “We have four years before the next nationals, and we’d love to get more regular players training with the Vipers.”
For more information about Special Olympics Powell River, go to specialolympics.ca/british-columbia/communities/powell-river.