A Williams Lake snowshoe athlete is now a three-time national gold medalist.
Austin Weber, 27, was in Thunder Bay, Ont. competing at the 2020 Special Olympics National Games from Feb. 25-29 after qualifying back home in B.C. in multiple events.
Weber — a sprinting specialist — rocketed out of the gate to gold medals in his 200- and 400-metre races. He then teamed up with three others from Team BC to win the overall gold medal in the relay race, and was top six in Canada in the 100-metre event.
“It was just great,” Weber told the Tribune of the experience. “A whole lot of fun, and winning the medals was the best part.”
Weber has been training extensively for the past several years as part of the Williams Lake Special Olympics team. He takes participates in multiple sports, including soccer, bowling and, his specialty, snowshoeing.
The National Games experience was one he won’t soon forget, he noted, as several social activities were scheduled for athletes to take part in, along with an opening and closing ceremonies.
“It just makes me want to train harder for next time,” Weber said.
Weber did say the conditions were quite cold, adding some challenge to his races.
Monique Goward, who is Weber’s mentor coach in Williams Lake with Special Olympics, described Weber’s progress in the sport, and his own fitness, as nothing short of remarkable since she began working with him.
She described Weber as “lightning out of the gate.” Goward took on coaching Williams Lake’s Special Olympics athletes in snowshoeing in 2016 after finding out they were without a coach.
“That’s his talent (his race starts),” she said. “I was so impressed with how consistent he was at the Games.”
She said Weber’s sense of competition has always been strong.
“He’s worked hard to develop his cardio, his core strength, stamina, perseverance, confidence, sportsmanship and etiquette,” Goward said. “He’s really grown to be a complete athlete. He’s learned and committed to it, trying to get better.”
Scheduled to arrive back home at the Williams Lake airport on Sunday, March 1, Weber’s plane was turned around back to Vancouver due to fog and a snow storm, much to the chagrin of a group of roughly 30 people including family, friends and fellow athletes who were waiting with congratulatory signs, balloons and well wishes for his arrival.