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Local Special Olympians shine at nationals, bring home medals

'When her name was called to the podium, she came out strutting her stuff with a smile ear to ear and gleam of tears in her eyes,' says Donna Grisé about her granddaughter Belle who won a gold medal in 5-pin bowling

Who wins a gold medal on their birthday?

Sarah Baumer of Midland did. She was in Calgary taking part in the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games in snowshoe racing.

She won a gold medal in the 100-metre sprint on Feb. 28, her 37th birthday. And how did that make her feel after snowshoeing for 10 years?

"Happy," she says.

Then she won a bronze medal in the 200-metre sprint.

Travelling on an airplane and being away from home and her parents for a week was a grand adventure for Baumer.

"I was a little bit stressed, but I did well on the way there and on the way back," Baumer says.

Sarah's father Ralph Baumer says, "It was good for her. I'm proud of her that she was able to get on the plane and do that herself."

Sarah says her favourite part, besides winning a medal on her birthday, was meeting new friends from all over Canada.

"I watched some of the snowshoers and I cheered them on because they cheered me on."

She enjoyed travelling with the 5-pin bowling Team Ontario players, two of whom are from Midland.

"I know Belle and Jeff," she says.

Jeff Bowen, 61, and Belle Grisé, 20, each won individual gold medals in their divisions and they were part of the bronze-medal winning Team Ontario.

Bowen and Grisé bowl at Bayshore Lanes in Midland. The other three team members bowl in Barrie.

Grisé says her favourite part was "meeting new people and the medals."

Donna Grisé, Belle's grandmother, said she saw a video of the awards.

"When her name was called to the podium, she came out strutting her stuff with a smile ear to ear and gleam of tears in her eyes," says Donna. "We are all very, very proud of her."

Belle has been practising four times a week and she's been bowling for five or six years. Her best game at the competition was a 238 and her highest score ever is 308.

"My coach was proud," says Belle.

Bowen has been bowling for about 25 years, but this was his first time making to the nationals.

"He was very excited. He was happy and proud," says his sister Darlene Henwood, who took a call from him from Calgary.

Now that he's home, his enthusiasm hasn't waned.

"He's been wearing the medals ever since. When we go shopping on Saturday he shows everybody," Henwood says.

The athletes had to raise funds to assist in the expenses.

Bowen is a regular volunteer in the Midland area including with the Midland Flyers. 

"A lot of people know him well. They all pitched in. He met his needs and a lot more," Henwood says. 

Bowling coaches Andrea Rogers and Debbie Sloan travelled with the team of five. The other three bowlers are Belinda Rogers, Andrea's daughter from Victoria Harbour, Adam Ferguson and Ben Kobylka, both from Barrie.

"Everyone came home with a medal," says Andrea. "We had such an amazing team. Everybody was pumped. They supported each other. I was so proud of them."

Now the cycle begins again. It starts with qualifiers, then provincials and then nationals. 

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Gisele Winton Sarvis

About the Author: Gisele Winton Sarvis

Gisele Winton Sarvis is an award winning journalist and photographer who has focused on telling the stories of the people of Simcoe County for more than 25 years
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