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Meet the Tri-City athletes granted an extra year to prepare for Special Olympics World Winter Games

Ariel Taylor, Lindsey Aarstad and Fiona Hall will compete for Canada on the big stage in 2023.

A year from now, a trio of Tri-City athletes are set to slip on the maple leaf and represent the country on the international slopes.

That's Ariel Taylor, Lindsey Aarstad and Fiona Hall, all members of Special Olympics Canada who have qualified for their respective training squads in preparation for the now 2023 World Winter Games.

They were three of 156 Canadians supposed to be in Kazan, Russia, this month — about 885 km east of Moscow — but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the organizing committee postponed the games by one year "to protect the health and safety of athletes, volunteers, staff and fans."

It's now giving Taylor, Aarstad and Hall the chance to prep an extra year for the biggest event for Special Olympic athletes around the world.

As part of the preparation, members of the national team met virtually with politicians on Wednesday (Jan. 12) to share stories and ask the federal government to continue including Special Olympics in the 2022 budget.

Taylor met with Port Moody-Coquitlam MP Bonita Zarrillo.

While athletes are grateful for the extra time and resources to train, Natascha Wesch explains the decision had a mental impact on athletes.

However, the Canadian Certified Counsellor (CCC) and mental performance lead for Special Olympics Canada believes a recent virtual training session helped boost morale as 2022 began.

“Having a group of mental performance consultants and coaches working directly with the teams has allowed us to support everyone in terms of training preparation and performance in addition to managing the ups and downs and constant changes happening due to the pandemic," she said in a news release.

"How individuals respond to challenging times says a lot about their mental fitness and overall mindset; it’s been fantastic to see the response and positive mindset from the SOTC 2022 athletes."

Taylor and Aarstad are snowshoers for Team Canada, while Hall is an alpine skier.

In qualifying for the World Winter Games, Taylor brought home three medals — a gold, silver and bronze — from the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games in Thunder Bay, Ont., in February 2020.

Her teammate Aarstad earned two golds and a silver at nationals in a Team B.C. vest.

Hall rushed down the hills to two bronze medals in the giant slalom and advanced slalom.

This will be each athlete's first time representing Canada on the world stage.

They started out as members of Special Olympics BC at its Coquitlam branch and have participated in other sports like track and field, basketball, soccer, swimming and bowling before finding their niche.

The Special Olympics World Winter Games are tentatively scheduled to take place Jan. 21 to 27, 2023.