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Special Olympics athlete wins his first medal for Maple Ridge

Dan Catarig recently moved from Mission and won a gold medal at the BC Winter Games
Dan Catarig recently moved from Mission to Maple Ridge, and won his first gold medal in floor hockey at the 2023 Special Olympics BC Winter Games. (Dan Catarig/Special to The News)

While many Special Olympics athletes were experiencing the BC Winter Games for the first time recently in Kamloops, the event was unfamiliar territory for Maple Ridge resident Dan Catarig in more ways than one.

Having lived in Mission for years, Catarig recently moved to Maple Ridge “a few good months ago” and faced a troubling possibility.

“When we had to move, I was a bit worried that I wasn’t going to be able to do my sports,” said Catarig. “When I got the option to still play for Mission, I was quite happy because I knew that Maple Ridge didn’t have any floor hockey teams.”

The news couldn’t have come at a better time, with the Mission Blazers team qualifying for the 2023 Special Olympics BC Winter Games soon after the move.

This marked a new chapter for Catarig’s Special Olympics career, having never been to a BC Winter Games before.

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In early February, the floor hockey team headed down to Kamloops to compete, which Catarig said was a bit challenging from the start.

“When me and my teammates got to the tournament, we had a bit of a sluggish start because it was early mornings and we weren’t used to it,” he said.

But the team got some much-needed rest and quickly found their groove, going undefeated as they beat Kelowna 5-2, Delta 7-5, Kamloops 6-2, and Richmond 4-3.

“These were all close games for us but we figured out ways to win,” said Catarig.

“Our game against Richmond was probably one of the most interesting ones because it was always kept close. Then my teammate Bryce Schafelberger went down with a pretty bad injury and there was a moment of silence because we weren’t sure if he would be able to play. But he got back up and ended up scoring twice.”

With their win over Richmond, the Blazers had earned their way to a gold medal finish in the Green Division, giving Catarig his first medal in floor hockey.

“We were all excited to receive the gold medal,” he said. “We all hugged each other and gave each other high-fives and dedicated some of that moment to our coaches.”

“Being part of the Winter Games in Kamloops was such a great experience, not just for me, but also my fellow teammates and coaches.”

READ MORE: Maple Ridge athletes earn 5 medals at 2023 Special Olympics BC Winter Games

Catarig is now looking forward to hopefully representing Maple Ridge, and the rest of B.C., at the 2024 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games. If he gets to attend, it will be the first time he has ever made it to nationals.

“We’re hoping to play the same way when we go to nationals.”

In the meantime, he’ll continue making the trek into Mission four days a week to practice his floor hockey and other Special Olympics sports, which include bowling, Club Fit, and basketball.

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Brandon Tucker

About the Author: Brandon Tucker

I have been a journalist since 2013, with much of my career spent covering sports and entertainment stories in Alberta.
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