As morning fades into early afternoon, Kailey Stewart and Robert Fougere sit side by side, lacing their skates and preparing for another day of practice at Halifax’s Scotiabank Centre. As they take the ice together, the classic swing number In the Mood begins to play over the speakers. They both stand still until Stewart motions Fougere over with her finger, signaling the start of their lively dance on ice. They are preparing to represent Team NS at the 2015 National Games in Cornerbrook NFLD.
Shortly after the routine begins, Fougere stumbles and Stewart, a seasoned skater, reminds herself that she’s not skating alone. Their first time skating in pairs, the two must sync their moves, much like they do their sparkly pink and black outfits.
Although young, 22-year-old Stewart is an experienced athlete about to compete at the Special Olympics Canada National Winter Games for her third time. Fougere, 42, is new to figure skating, only starting last year. This year will be his first performance on ice at a national competition.
Fougere and Stewart exemplify the sense of family and belonging often felt in the Special Olympics. “She’s always there and she touches my heart because she has such a good personality,” says Fougere about his teammate.
Despite the challenges that arise with pairs skating, the two are appreciative of one another. “Sometimes we have our little mishaps, but we always come back and just keep on going,” says Fougere. “He’s patient with my bossiness,” Stewart says with a smirk.
For athletes, life off the ice isn’t always easy. “I lose a lot of friends when I train,” says Stewart. “You don’t get time to see your friends. You go home, eat supper, and go to bed. That’s all we do right now.”
“The desire to compete and excel at a major sports competition is no different within the Special Olympics movement,” says Matt Quinn, chef de mission for Team Nova Scotia. “The athletes and coaches advancing to the national level dedicate a tremendous amount of time and training to their sports. The presence of a “disability” doesn’t diminish the “ability” to succeed. We’re very proud to say our national team training program has produced exceptional results on the podium in the past for Team Nova Scotia and we expect 2016 will be no different.”
When asked about the pair’s dynamic, coach Mary Anne Crowley only has good things to say. “[Kailey is] a more advanced skater. She has to tone herself down to his pace, and that’s quite challenging for any figure skater, but she’s very helpful and very supportive of Robert.”
As a figure skating coach with Special Olympics Nova Scotia with over 25 years’ experience, Crowley understands how different personalities keep couples balanced on the ice. “Robert is very even tempered, so that makes it better in a way. Kailey is high strung, outgoing and extroverted. We call her ‘spitfire’,” says Crowley. “They work very well together.”
The pair will travel with Team Nova Scotia to Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador for six days, beginning Feb. 29, 2016. Fougere says they’re both looking forward to competing and making new friends.
For more information, please contact:
Anne Marie Shannon
Director, Events and Communications
Special Olympics Nova Scotia