Kara Summer isn’t just the first athlete from the Cowichan Valley to compete at the Special Olympics World Summer Games. She’s also the first medallist.
Summer came back from the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles earlier this month with a pair of silver medals from the tenpin bowling singles and team competitions, and a fifth-place ribbon from the doubles event.
Summer is the first competitor from the Cowichan Valley to qualify for either the summer or winter World Games. Reaching the international level is a four-year process as athletes start with regional competitions, then move on to provincials, and finally nationals.
“It’s a long progress,” Summer said.
Summer booked her ticket to the World Games by taking gold in all three tenpin events at the 2014 Canada Summer Games in Vancouver. Although she was the only athlete from the Valley to reach L.A., and the only bowler from Vancouver Island, she wasn’t the only one from B.C. on her team, which helped her feel more comfortable at the World Games.
“I had met them all at provincials and nationals,” Summer said.
Since they were in L.A., the athletes did get to do some of the things that visitors to the city expect.
“It was interesting,” Summer said. “It kinda sucked we didn’t get to go to Disneyland. We drove right past it.”
Summer and her fellow athletes did attend a Los Angeles Angels baseball game and got to meet a pair of big celebrities in Justin Bieber and Johnny Knoxville.
Bieber walked into the opening ceremonies at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with the Canadian delegation.
“I wasn’t a fan of him before, but I am now,” Summer said, noting that when they came face-to-face, she very diplomatically told him that she had wanted to meet him ever since she heard his first album.
The athletes got to meet Knoxville, the star of the 2005 Special Olympics-themed movie The Ringer, on a trip to Fox Studios. In this case, Summer was already familiar with Knoxville’s work.
“I’ve seen [The Ringer] quite a few times,” Summer said. “I told Johnny Knoxville my brother would be jealous.”
Summer was also approached many times by tourists, who invariably asked her what sport she was in, then asked what her best score was. When she told them of her accomplishments, they all replied, “I guess we’ll never be playing against you.”
Summer has been bowling for about six years, and it has become her favourite sport.
“Just the rush of it; I love it,” she said. “It’s taken over swimming, taken over everything.”
Summer is coached by Cheryl Giles. Early in her training, she tried bowling four times a week, but dropped that down to three times a week, then twice. Even though she was well-prepared, going to the World Games was a huge step for Summer to take.
“I was very stressed,” she admitted. “I really pushed myself to go to L.A. Provincials and nationals weren’t that hard to get ready for, but the Worlds was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
Summer will definitely keep bowling after this, but she’s not sure if she’s going to try to qualify for the next World Games when the process begins next year.
“I think I’ll be taking a year off and let somebody else have a chance to go who hasn’t gone before,” she said.