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Athletes receive special welcome upon return from Special Olympics

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Nearly two dozen Barrie-based Special Olympics athletes made a triumphant return home Sunday night.

Each of them medalled at the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games in Calgary, and they were greeted with plenty of cheers from their families as their bus dropped them off in the parking lot outside Bayfield Mall.

"I'm very blessed to have them," said Jason Helmond after reuniting with his parents Michelle and Ben.

Helmond won a bronze medal in curling.

"We could not be prouder of Jason," said Michelle Helmond. "We couldn't be prouder of his whole team. They did truly work together as a team."

The 23 athletes helped Team Ontario lead all provinces with 66 gold medals and 195 total medals at the Games in Calgary.

Also in the group was cross-country skier Aaron Hurd, who won a gold and a silver medal.

"Really happy," stated Hurd of his first experience competing at the national level.

Alpine skier Cameron Oliver won two gold medals.

"It was amazing. That's all," Oliver said of his winning experience.

Curling coach Jan Jeffrey spoke of the value that Special Olympics athletes gain by having the opportunity to compete at a national level.

"They're true athletes," Jeffrey explained. "they deserve the same opportunities that everyone else does, and they probably have a lot more fun doing it as well."

The top Canadian athletes from Calgary's games will have the chance to compete internationally at the 2025 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Italy.  

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