Vernon silver medalist Justin Sigal (right) congratulates third-place finisher Robbie Lewis of Ontario following the 5-km classic race at the Canadian Special Olympics Winter Games in Newfoundland.

Vernon silver medalist Justin Sigal (right) congratulates third-place finisher Robbie Lewis of Ontario following the 5-km classic race at the Canadian Special Olympics Winter Games in Newfoundland.

Sigal glides to Games gold

He knew he’d left everything out on the aptly named Blow Me Down cross-country ski trails in Corner Brook, Nfld

He knew he’d left everything out on the aptly named Blow Me Down cross-country ski trails in Corner Brook, Nfld.

But what Vernon athlete Justin Sigal didn’t know when he crossed the finish line in his second and final race at the Canada Special Olympics Winter Games was that his time was golden.

Sigal captured his second medal of the Games by winning gold in the M3 2.5-km classic discipline, crossing the line in 14 minutes, 24.20 seconds to lead a B.C. sweep of the podium (Prince George athletes Josh Pudney and Danny Lafreniere won silver and bronze, respectively).

“I was pretty shocked,” said Sigal, 26, who was competing at his first Canada Winter Games. “They weren’t allowing the athletes to look at the results and I didn’t know my time. I know I skied hard and left everything out on the course, but I didn’t know I’d won gold until I got to the ceremonies and they presented me the medal.

“It was amazing.”

Sigal had an extra day to prepare for the 2.5-km classic as unseasonably warm +6-degree-weather, rain and heavy winds cancelled the event on its scheduled day, leading hundreds of volunteers to spring into action.

The volunteers got shovels and loaded toboggans with snow from the nearby woods surrounding Blow Me Down trails, then shoveled the snow onto the trails so the athletes could compete.

Sigal, who used the day off to cheer on B.C. athletes in the indoor sports like curling, speed skating and figure skating, earlier won silver in the M3 five-km classic event.

He finished in 30:16.40. Arthur Piche of Manitoba won gold in 29:58.70 while Robbie Lewis of Ontario won silver in 30:27.30.

Born with cerebral palsy and cognitive disability, Sigal’s parents put him on skis “as soon as I was able to walk.

“I cross-country skied until I was in Grade 6 then I turned to downhill skiing,” said Sigal. “Once I moved out into my own place, I couldn’t afford downhill skiing so I went back and joined the Special Olympics cross-country team.”

Sigal competed in the 2015 B.C. Special Olympics Winter Games where he qualified for nationals. He golfs in the summer and is also part of the Special Olympics bowling program at Lincoln Lanes.

A baker/counter person at Tim Hortons, Sigal was looking forward to showing his medals to his co-workers and friends.

He rates the Newfoundland experience a 10 out of 10.

“I’d never been there before and the whole trip was amazing,” he said. “The weather was great, it was a lot of fun. I got to meet a lot of new people from across Canada.”