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Silver lining for Mark Epelon
Yellowknife Special Olympian hits podium at World Summer Games

James McCarthy
Northern News Services
Friday, August 14, 2015

Seems whenever Special Olympics NWT has an athlete named to Team Canada, success always follows.

NNSL photo/graphic

Mark Epelon cuts through the water during his 25-metre freestyle race at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles late last month. - photo courtesy of Special Olympics Canada

Mark Epelon is the latest Special Olympian from the city to hit the podium after winning a silver medal at the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles, California. He pulled off the feat in the 25-metre freestyle M1 division, the highest division available. Throw in a fourth-place finish in the 50-metre backstroke M2 division and another fourth-place finish in the 4 x 25-metre freestyle relay M1 division and you have someone who did both country and territory proud.

The 15-year-old said it was an amazing feeling when he touched the wall after his swim in the freestyle event and saw he had won silver.

"I really wasn't expecting to win a medal," he said. "It was unexpected but I ended up winning one and I'm happy."

If you're thinking this was one of those events where you just showed up, did your thing and came home safely, think again. Epelon worked with his coach, Tanis Stirling, three times a week at Ruth Inch Memorial Pool for two months leading up to the Games. When he wasn't in the pool, Epelon was training dry land twice a week.

"I took it very seriously," he said. "I was excited to be part of the team and I wanted to work hard."

Epelon's mother, Tammy Roberts, also made the trip to Los Angeles with two of her other sons and said watching her son compete and seeing the entire experience of Special Olympics gave her a new look on competition in general.

"A lot of people have really gotten the wrong idea of what competing is and what sports is," she said. "Special Olympics does it right. It's absolutely amazing to see, especially in swimming, the athletes who are fast finish the race and stay in the water to wait for someone who's so slow, it looks like they're almost going backwards. The slower they are, the more people cheer for them."

Roberts also said the other athletes will cheer them on right to the finish and even help them try to get to the finish in some instances.

"It really does stop and make you look at things differently," she said. "Even when the athletes get their medals, they don't care what number they have on the podium, whether it's first or second or even eighth. They're just so happy to be up there."

Epelon follows in the footsteps of Cynthia Simmons, who won two silver medals at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in 2013 in speedskating and Terry Kuliktana, a silver medalist in swimming in the World Summer Games in 2007.

For now, Epelon said he's planning on taking a break but it won't be a long one.

"I'm going to relax right now but I'll be back in the pool soon," he promised.

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