Heart of a Winner
by Angus MacCaull
The announcer’s voice floated over the crowd at Oland Stadium. “In lane number 7 is Abby Stapleton from Nova Scotia. Dans le voie numéro sept, c’est Abby Stapleton de Novelle Ecosse.”
The athletes took a final moment to ready their limbs in the heat for the 200 meter sprint, then the starter’s gun popped and they shot out of the blocks.
Stapleton represented Nova Scotia in the 2018 Special Olympics. It was her first time at the National Summer Games. She was one of a team of 32 that joined 900 other athletes from across Canada to compete and celebrate sports in Antigonish.
Unusually warm temperatures and high humidity coated the outdoor events in a heavy atmosphere. But the additional challenge didn’t bother Stapleton.
“I train in the heat and the rain,” she said. “I don’t want to be held back.”
Stapleton also trains and competes as a speed skater in the winter. In 2016, she won three bronze medals at the National Winter Games in Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador. Stapleton works closely with her father, Carl, one of our longtime brokers in Sydney who’s been a Special Olympics coach for six years.
“To watch these athletes compete, and to train them and work with them day by day—there’s nothing more rewarding,” said Carl. “They support one another, they encourage one another, and just to see them progress and to actually discover some of their own self-worth, it means everything.”
Athletes from our National Games go on to the World Games, which includes representatives from over 170 countries. They all live by the oath, “Let me win but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
I got emotional watching this oath in action during Stapleton’s 200 meter sprint. The grit and grace of the runners powering to the finish line left a lump in my throat. Just before sprint, I’d seen some of the same athletes pat each other on the back and help each other breathe through their pre-race nerves.
Afterwards, I joined Abby and her father. I asked her what advice she remembers in the hard times on the track.
“Be confident and give it your all,” she said. “It works.”