It may have been a month since four athletes from the Tri-Con Gentle Giants came home from a national competition in Vancouver, but they are still celebrating.
Shawn Dawson, Eleanor Hobbs, Crystal Young and Josh Mutrey flew to Vancouver for the Special Olympics Canada Summer Games, an event that takes place once every four years. All four of them came home with at least one medal from the July 8 to 12 competitions.
Shawn has been a member of the Bay Roberts Sea Lions swim club since he was seven years old.
Mom Diane Dawson has been very supportive, saying the sport has helped him overcome some challenges he has experienced growing up with Autism.
"I used to be on the side of the pool, edging him on to keep going," Diane explained. "And now, he's swimming at nationals."
Shawn, who lives with his parents in Clarke's Beach, didn't speak much during an interview with The Compass, but his face lit up when his mom asks about swimming.
"He just loves to swim," Diane said.
Shawn smiled and added, "Yes, (I) love to swim."
She went to Vancouver with the 23-year-old and the other athletes. She said it was a great experience to attend.
"They put off a fantastic nationals," she exclaimed.
Shawn came home with two silver medals in 50 and 200-metre backstroke and a bronze in 100 backstroke. Each weighed about half-a-pound.
Shawn works at Scrunchions Restaurant in Bay Roberts, where the staff are his biggest supporters during competitions.
Shawn's teammate in the pool was Eleanor Hobbs from Victoria.
Eleanor was not originally a swimmer with the Special Olympics. She began with track and field.
When a coach realized the 37-year-old could swim, she was invited to join the swim team.
"I love swimming," Eleanor told The Compass from her apartment. "I never went in it to win."
She is a strong competitor, taking home a medal in all six of her events - gold in 50 metre butterfly, 100 backstroke m, 100 m individual medley and 100 m freestyle, silver in 50 m freestyle and bronze in 25 m butterfly.
But sometimes, she would like to see others win too, which is an unusual stance for athletes.
"I want somebody to beat me," she said.
Her choice in swimming events is the butterfly, which some consider the most difficult stroke.
Eleanor has been swimming in ponds all her life, and plays softball in the summer. She has been staying active, which has helped her lose 30 pounds.
"There's no such thing as can't," Eleanor exclaimed.
Crystal can be seen running around her hometown of Harbour Grace several times a week.
Although there are not many long-distance events at the Games, it is where the 41-year-old's passion lies.
"She does a lot of training on her own," her mom Glenys Penney said. "Everyone knows her from seeing her run (all over town)."
Although she enjoys winning medals and competing, Crystal explained her favourite thing is getting to meet so many people.
"It's not just the competition and winning," Crystal said. "It's the people, meeting new friends.
Lying on the table in front of her were two gold medals. The first was for the standing long jump, while the other was for the 3000 metre run.
Crystal explained she wrote a letter to the organizers of the Newfoundland and Labrador Summer Games to allow her to compete in a 3000 m event, because they didn't offer it. The letter led to her competing and winning the event in Vancouver.
When Crystal was asked why she did so well, she explained her mom and coaches were behind her through it all.
The Games was not the competition Josh had hoped for.
The 18-year-old brought home a gold medal, and an experience no athlete should have.
"On the third day, they thought I had a seizure," Josh explained. "It was heat stroke."
He was treated, but didn't get to return to the competition as an athlete.
In the past five years or so, Josh has participated in many track and field events, and has earned 32 medals - he keeps track.
When he returns to training in the fall, his plan is to start building up some more muscular strength and try to earn more medals next season.
"I love winning medals," he smiled.
When Josh isn't training and having fun, he is working at the Salvation Army Thrift Store in his hometown, Carbonear.
To get involved with the Tri-Con Gentle Giants, contact Gina Bishop at email@example.com.
About the athletes:
° Each athlete competes or has competed in other sports, including snowshoeing in the winter;
° Crystal Young hopes to convince the Newfoundland and Labrador Summer Games committee to introduce a 5,000 metre long-distance running event;
° Shawn Dawson competed in P.E.I. and Quebec for the Summer Games, and in Ontario with the Special Olympics;
° Eleanor Hobbs has competed outside this province in Manitoba and Vancouver;
° Josh Mutrey is the youngest member of the Tri-Con Gentle Giants national athletes;
° Crystal was not into sports until she learned the Special Olympics had bowling;
° Eleanor explained she is not giving up competing until it's "time to give up." Expect to see her for many years to come;
° Shawn has a large collection of movies, and has them categorized. He can find one movie out of thousands if someone mentions the title;
° Josh hopes to buy a quad from the money he makes from working at the thrift store;
° Each year there is a Show N' Shine for the Gentle Giants, with hundreds of attendees and dozens of cars taking part.