Feel Good Friday - Michael & Ron

Whe n you think of Manitoba, images of mountains and snow-capped peaks don’t immediately enter your mind. So it was a surprise to some to see Manitoba represented in the sport of Alpine Ski on Team Canada last March at the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria.

With a lot of training and pushing past limits, Alpine Ski athlete Michael Milani, and his coach Ron Struch, proved that Manitoba was here to play. Both were selected to Team Canada after an impressive showing at the 2016 National Winter Games in Corner Brook, Newfoundland.

In Austria, Michael brought home a silver and a bronze medal, proving that hard work and talent can overcome even the tallest mountain (or lack thereof). In all, Ron helped coach Team Canada athletes to a total of 25 medals in Alpine Ski – impressive to say the least.

As a coach for the past 14 years, he says it’s not about all about the wins and the medals. What keeps him going is so much more. “To me, Special Olympics means that the athletes have proven that there is no limit to what they can achieve. It is also about seeing these athletes develop as people. They learn about themselves and their capabilities. It thrills me to see athletes develop self-esteem and make new friends,” said Ron.

Special Olympics, at its base, is about the power of sport and the opportunity that it provides. However, it’s more than just competing. It’s the opportunity for athletes to do more, see more, and be more than they may have ever thought possible. To travel, to make friends, to build self-esteem, and to feel like they truly belong.

When asked what his favorite part of being on Team Canada was, Michael responded: “The whole experience was great. The flying on an airliner jet across the North Atlantic Ocean. Seeing the buildings in different towns. Seeing the ski hill in the Alps. It was awesome!” It was more than just being able to compete on the world stage. It was being able to experience flying across the ocean for the first time and experiencing a culture different from our own.

This is what Special Olympics provides. From the hills of Manitoba, to the Mountains of Austria, it brings together athletes from all over the world with one goal in mind: providing an opportunity for these athletes to achieve their dreams.