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Kristina Richard of Antigonish preparing to compete in 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games

Kristina Richard had plenty of support from friends and family, including her father Curtis, during the 2018 Special Olympics Canada Summer Games in Antigonish. Corey LeBlanc
Kristina Richard had plenty of support from friends and family, including her father Curtis, during the 2018 Special Olympics Canada Summer Games in Antigonish. Corey LeBlanc - Corey LeBlanc

It doesn’t matter where she finishes – Kristina Richard knows she will have many golden moments at the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.    

The Antigonish native will race the 100, 200 and 400m classifications in track and field.    

“It is going to be pretty cool,” the Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional High School graduate said.    

Richard will never forget the moment – a few weeks ago – when she learned she had earned a spot on Team Canada.    

“I started crying and shaking,” the 24-year-old said, noting they were “happy tears,” when her grandmother gave her the great news.    

It will be the first time on the Special Olympics’ international stage for Richard, a veteran of several regional and provincial competitions.    

She has also donned Team Nova Scotia colours in national competition – on home turf in Antigonish (2018) and in Vancouver (2014).    

“Making a lot of good friends,” Richard said, when asked about her favourite part of Special Olympics.    

Kristina Richard represented Team Nova Scotia in the 2018 Special Olympics Canada Summer Games, which took place in her hometown of Antigonish. Corey LeBlanc
Kristina Richard represented Team Nova Scotia in the 2018 Special Olympics Canada Summer Games, which took place in her hometown of Antigonish. Corey LeBlanc

Since joining the movement, at the age of 13, she has competed in not only track and field, but also swimming, bowling and floor hockey.    

“Kristina is just a delight,” Eastern Highlands Special Olympics’ regional co-ordinator Joan Conrad said.    

She added Richard brings her “big beautiful smile” and unmatched personality to every experience.    

“She is very helpful,” Conrad noted of Richard’s relationship with other athletes, describing her as a “role model and mentor.”    

She added the multi-time medal winner is always there to help, including running training laps and providing tips to her teammates.    

“Everyone loves Kristina so much,” Conrad said.    

The long-time volunteer reflected on how Richard has grown during her time with Special Olympics.    

“Kristina started with the attitude of trying to do her best,” Conrad said, noting that she – more and more – realized she “could and wanted to do that and more.”    

She added Richard has enjoyed countless “new experiences,” including the development of her physical fitness, social and communication skills.    

“She has really expanded her horizons,” Conrad said.    

She agreed Richard is a great reflection of the “strong program” that Eastern Highlands has developed, which includes dedicated athletes, coaches and volunteers.

‘It is awesome’    

Richard has also made countless friends, including several during a recent week-long training session in Toronto, where she met her Team Canada teammates.    

“It was so much fun,” she said.    

In the weeks leading up to the Games, which will take place in March (due to the region’s climate, they will be held during the region’s late winter/early spring) Richard will continue with her busy training regimen.    

“I am going to keep working hard,” she noted.    

Three times per week, along with sprints and weight training, Richard will be navigating plenty of hills and trails.    

Along with her athletics’ training, Kristina Richard works at the Antigon-ish CACL workshop café. Corey Le-Blanc
Along with her athletics’ training, Kristina Richard works at the Antigon-ish CACL workshop café. Corey Le-Blanc

She will continue to balance that athletic schedule with her work at the Antigonish Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL) workshop.    

On this day, Richard reflected for a few minutes on her Special Olympics’ experience before starting her shift in the CACL café in the East Coast Credit Union Social Enterprise Centre – the building the organization now shares with Royal Canadian Arras Branch 59.    

“It is awesome,” Richard, with her signature wide smile, said of welcoming people to the café.    

She serves baked goods – made onsite by her co-workers – along with hot and cold drinks.    

And, in keeping with the ‘friendship thread’ that seemingly weaves through her life, Richard loves meeting new people.    

When she is not working, training or competing, Richard loves hanging out with her family and friends, including three dogs.    

“It keeps me busy,” she said of the walks and play time with her four-legged friends.    

Going for gold    

The 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games, a multi-sport event, will take place March 14 to 21.    

The opening and closing ceremonies, along with competition – except for swimming and track and field, which will be staged in Dubai – will take place in Abu Dhabi.    

“I am going to try my best – that’s the main thing,” Richard said of her goals on the international stage, which include racing to a gold medal.    

And, of course, she is excited about meeting new people and making new friends.    

Kristina Richard (left) and her friend and Team Nova Scotia teammate Sasha Repko of Port Hawkesbury celebrate on the medal podium during the 2018 Special Olympics Canada Summer Games in Antigonish. Corey LeBlanc
Kristina Richard (left) and her friend and Team Nova Scotia teammate Sasha Repko of Port Hawkesbury celebrate on the medal podium during the 2018 Special Olympics Canada Summer Games in Antigonish. Corey LeBlanc

Speaking of friendship, once again, that is an element of Richard’s only regret, when it comes to taking the global athletic stage.    

“I wish she was coming with me,” she said of her ‘bestie’ Sasha Repko of Port Hawkesbury, who is also an Eastern Highlands and Nova Scotia teammate.    

Conrad said Richard will be a great representative of not only Eastern Highlands, but also her province and country.    

“Kristina will wear the Maple Leaf proudly, and she deserves it,” she added 

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