A local athlete’s tenacious training paid off in full when he took three medals home from an impressive showing at the Special Olympics B.C. Summer Games in Kamloops.
The Games ran from July 6-8 and Ucluelet’s Maxtin Lengyel earned a gold medal in the 100-metre dash, a silver in running long jump and a bronze in javelin.
“If you train as hard as you can, you can be in the first place box,” Lengyel told the Westerly News.
The 15 year-old said he ramped up his training regimen leading up to the games, putting in a “crazy amount” of running and stretching to ensure he was prepared and, as his training increased, his confidence did the same.
“I was thinking, ‘It’s going to be awesome,’” he said.
“I was feeling really pumped and excited.”
He said his 100-metre gold medal run didn’t start off as quickly as he’d hoped, but he rocked himself into gear to take the race’s top honours.
“I was thinking, ‘Why am I running so slow right now? Let’s show them what I’ve got,’ and then I ran as hard as I could,” he said adding his mom’s motivating voice ran through his head as he picked up his pace.
“My mother has helped me so much. I love my mother. I was thinking of her motivating me while running. She was motivating me a lot to run really fast.”
He said his coaches, family and community are big sources of support.
“Athletes have loving families and they get lots of help from their loving families,” he said adding his West Coast’s surroundings are perfect for a young athlete to thrive in.
“I’m living in a great place where I can get outside and actually be physically active.”
Lengyel’s mom, Jacqueline Holliday, has been delighted by her son’s athletic success.
“As a parent, you always hope that your child will find a passion that they can set goals with and feel success,” she said.
“It has taken many years for Maxtin to find that, and we couldn’t be more proud of him and grateful for the volunteer coaches.”
She said she was unable to make it out to Kamloops to watch her son compete, but her parents and husband Dale were there to cheer him on.
“I was on a whale watch when the text came in from Dale, ‘He WON 1st place!!!!!!.’ I immediately reacted and guests wondered if I was okay. I had tears of joy as I made the announcement to my crewmember and everyone on board clapped,” she beamed.
She added her son’s employers at West Coast Aquatic Safaris have been “very supportive” of his athletic pursuits and presented him with a congratulatory gift when he returned from the Games triumphant.
The Port Alberni-West Coast region sent 36 athletes to the provincials this year: 23 for bowling, seven for track, four for softball and two for swimming, according to the region’s Special Olympics coordinator, and Lengyel’s track coach, Linda Scobbie.
“It’s one of our largest contingents that’s ever gone,” Scobbie told the Westerly adding the region has roughly 100 Special Olympic athletes.
“It’s a really big deal for our athletes…Special Olympics is very social, so they get out and make lots of friends and it gets them involved in sports so they’re moving and staying healthy.”
She explained the Special Olympics runs on a four year cycle, starting with Regionals, which are followed by Provincials, Nationals and Worlds before the cycle starts again.
Lengyel is eyeing next year’s national competition, but will have to wait and see as, Scobbie said, the selection process will take a while to run its course and there are many variables at play in terms of which athletes get selected.
Scobbie, who said she’s worked with the Special Olympics for roughly 25 years, said the young West Coast track star has a lot to be proud of regardless of whether he’s selected to compete in next year’s national event.
“This is the first time that I am aware of, and I’ve been involved for a very long time, that an athlete from Ucluelet has gone to provincials and has done so well as well. He did fantastic,” she said. “He did very well. We were very happy for him…Max is a really cool kid. He is so enthusiastic. It’s just so cool to watch him. I love watching him.”
She added his performance was particularly impressive considering it was his first crack at the Special Olympic’s provincial competition and has improved significantly since he got into competitive track roughly two years ago.
“Every practice he was getting better and better and better,” she said. “Maxtin improved his times drastically from last year to this year. He’s gotten so much faster…He has come so far, so fast. It’s really amazing to watch him.”
She added Lengyel’s enthusiasm and work-ethic is inspiring and that the sky’s the limit in terms of what he could achieve athletically.
“He works really hard at it. It’s very impressive how much he’s put into it and how much he’s gotten back out because of that,” she said adding it’s a significant commitment to travel from Ucluelet to Port Alberni each week to train. “He’s a young guy, so he’s got lots more growing to do and, if he improves like this every year, who knows where he could end up?”