ANTIGONISH, N.S. - As she waited to step on the podium to receive her gold medal Saturday afternoon, the tears started to flow for Stacey Saunders.
They were not only a reflection of joy and anticipation with what was about to happen, but also satisfaction with the journey of hard work and dedication that brought her to that moment.
The Stellarton, Pictou County native had reached her goal at the Special Olympics Canada 2018 Summer Games in Antigonish.
“I am so proud of myself,” Saunders said with a wide smile as she cradled the gold medal she received, just a few moments earlier, in her hands.
As a tear or two returned, the 10-year veteran of the Special Olympics noted receiving the honour was a “pretty emotional” experience.
“I am six-foot-two, 310 pounds and I won a gold medal in the 100m – I did it,” she said.
Her coach Angela Fogarty, who described her as “really a rock star,” said Saunders has tackled everything in her path.
“Stacey’s was focussed on winning a medal,” Fogarty said, noting her goal to make Team Canada for the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi.
Fogarty added Saunders “made no excuses,” as she trained three times a week in the build-up to her first national Games.
That process included boot camp classes, where the coach said Saunders received “tremendous support” from her classmates.
“Stacey is a role model and a leader for others,” Fogarty added.
The athletics’ champion also competes in floor hockey, basketball and softball.
“It is so much fun,” Saunders said of her Special Olympics’ experience.
As for her first national Games, she said it has been awesome.
“It is amazing – I have met so many people and made some great friends,” she said, when asked about highlights of the week.
“And, of course, winning a gold medal,” Saunders added, with a laugh.
Later in the Saunders made two more trips to the medal podium, garnering a second gold (4X100m relay) and bronze (shot put).