Special bowling skills earned Krystin Albert a trip to P.E.I.
by Randy Pascal
The 2018 Special Olympics Canada Bowling Championships hosted in Charlottetown in May might not have marked Krystin Albert's first
trip to Prince Edward Island - but it was a special one.
A participant for the past dozen years or so in a variety of the sporting endeavours offered by the local chapter of the Special Olympics movement, Albert
was making her first appearance at a national championship.
"It was fun and kind of neat, getting to see all of the other provinces there, and getting to make new friends," noted the 27 year old native of
Kapuskasing, but long-time resident of Sudbury.
"I have family out there, so they came to watch me bowl. It was really exciting, because I've never been to nationals." Introduced originally to Special
Olympics via the sport of floor hockey, Albert explained that bowling followed suit soon thereafter, with baseball and soccer now in the mix as well.
Still, it was on the lanes where she would distinguish herself, translating her weekly practice sessions at Plaza Bowl into a trek to the
maritimes. "I have to keep my head up and look at the pins," said Albert.
"The bowling alleys in PEI weren't the same, they were shorter and a little smaller. I tried just to concentrate and go out there and see what I can do."
Her long-time coach, Vicki Garinger, was not overly concerned.
"Her dedication is always there," said Garinger. "If our practices are cancelled, it's a sad moment for Krystin." Much like her athlete, Garinger began
her Special Olympics journey via an alternate sport.
"I started off with baseball, and when baseball ended, I asked if there was another sport coming up that needed a coach, somewhere I could lend a hand,"
she said. "Before you knew it, they needed a head coach for bowling."
That said, Garinger was certainly not a fish completely out of the water. "My grandfather was a national five pin champion, so we've had bowling in the
family," she stated. "I've bowled ten pin more than I've bowled five pin."
In the end, the lessons she shares with athletes, like Albert, are far more generic in nature than sport-specific. "The etiquette is key, you need to
help each other out, boosting each other's morale," suggested Garinger.
"If you're struggling and having a bad game, let it slide. Go giggle with somebody, come back and re-focus. It seems to work for a lot of them." And at
the end of the day, it's that prevailing wisdom that keeps her coming back to her very "Special" team.
"No matter how bad your day is, you come out for this and you get hugs and the smiles, immediately," she said. "They want to tell you all about their
day." Or in the case of Krystin Albert, all about her very exciting first trip to nationals.