Athlete Spotlight -William Thomas Hart
My name is William Thomas Hart. I have been involved with Special Olympics for 10 years. Started off with Special Olympic swimming and also competed in swimming, figure skating and alpine skiing. I was in gymnastics, soccer, taekwondo, track and field for generic sports (normal stream).
Sports was harder in the normal stream as I could not focus; my coordination was not as good as other kids. My mom would have to help me to stay focused and safe when doing some of the other sports. Like in gymnastics, my mom would have to stay with me when we used all the different apparatuses as it was hard to stay still and wait my turn and be safe. When I joined Special Olympics, the coaches were able to explain and show things at my level and keep me focused and safe.
My mom had heard about Special Olympics from some other foster parents, so she thought that would be a great avenue to put us in. Mom believed sports was a great way to use our massive amount of energy. Plus I enjoyed doing sports and playing with the other people.
Special Olympics has given me confidence and has allowed me to achieve goals. I have met great coaches; Coach Agnes and Coach Scott who encouraged me not only in my sports, but also in my life. Special Olympics has given me the opportunity to travel and to meet people. Being involved with Special Olympics, I also learned how to be a volunteer by helping with fundraisers. It’s giving me independence and confidence.
I was able to do a lot of different sports. I really loved figure skating and Coach Agnes was able to make solos up for me with music I loved. It allowed me to be free on the ice and I was good at something. The other skaters didn’t care about my disabilities, they treated me like I was important and a team mate.
The biggest difference is I have gained muscles and I am healthy, plus my self confidence is way up. I don’t worry about being teased and bullied.
My first National Winter Games was in 2016 when Jemiha was snowshoeing and I was figure skating; we were 13 years old. It was exciting! We went on planes and travelled all the way to Cornerbrook, Newfoundland. It was scary, but was fun. It was fun to skate against the other boys. I was happy my Mom was there to cheer me on. My coach from Thompson was with me, so I wasn’t too scared. After I skated, I got a lot of stuffies thrown on the ice. That was fun!
My second National Winter Games was in 2020 to Thunder Bay, Ontario. This time, I was going as an alpine skier and I didn’t know anyone. I was worried and scared because I was going to Thunder Bay with the team and Jemiha was not a member of it and Coach Agnes was not with me. However, my mom encouraged me that everything would be OK and she was right. After I got there I got to meet other skiers and had a lot of fun. I met Jackson who was a skier and we had a lot of things in common. I got to see the Terry Fox Statue, which was really nice because Terry Fox is my hero. Terry Fox was able to make a statement and help with awareness for cancer. He showed determination and courage.
As a young aboriginal man in foster care to be able to do these things, go to these Games, and participate in the sports has been amazing. I would not have been able to do these things had it not been for the encouragement of my mom and Special Olympics. Some children in foster care don’t always get the opportunity to try different sports, but I had a foster mom that made sure that I could try different sports and different things because she believed in me. Special Olympics coaches also believe in you and they encourage you to be the best that you can be. I hope that other aboriginal youth get the same chance as I get.
I stay active by trying to do some of the online sessions by Special Olympics and doing different challenges. I also go out for walks with my dog and my mom. Now that I am on the Special Olympics training squad for Team Canada going to Kazan, Russia for the 2022 World Winter Games, I have to do a lot of exercises to get ready for the Games. I am lucky I have great coaches, like Ron and Scott, to help encourage me. Plus my Mom is my best motivator and encourages me to get active.
Being an athlete is fun, meeting people, learning new skills, doing sports with other people at your experience level. It allows a person to learn new sports and to gain confidence at their level. It gives you self-confidence. I would love to have my friends join me in Special Olympics.
I could not have done the sports I did without the great coaches that I had - Coach Lindsay for swimming, Coach Taryn and Steven for swimming, Coach Agnes for skating, and Coach Scott for skiing.
All these coaches gave their time and wisdom to teach me. They had a lot of patience and had to come up with some pretty wild ideas to keep me focused. It is so important to allow people with a disability to participate in sports, but we do need volunteers and coaches to make that happen. I will always treasure my coaches as they help me grow in my sport and also grow into a great person. Thank you to all my coaches, all the volunteers to help plan events and help raise money, so we can go to competitions. Be a volunteer; you will be swallowed by love.
“When I do the sports, I feel like I’m free . Like an eagle soaring in the sky . Like a wolf howling at the moon. Special Olympics has given me opportunities I never dreamed of. An aboriginal youth going to Worlds in Kazan, Russia… Crazy, don’t you think.”
Written and submitted by William Hart