Natalie Stevanus loves to dance. Although her favourite music is by Shania Twain, basically any song with a good beat will get her to the dance floor. “When we go to weddings,” said her mother Linda from their Bloomingdale home, “She is up dancing from the beginning to the very, very end.”
So it came as no surprise to Linda that figure skating came naturally to Natalie when she began the sport nine years ago. Natalie, 26, has Down syndrome, but thanks to her perseverance and dedication to the sport, on Jan. 20, Natalie will be joining more than 400 athletes and coaches from across Ontario who will gather in Thunder Bay to compete in the 2011 Special Olympics Provincial Winter Games. A member of the Woolwich Skating Club, she was the only skater in the region to qualify for the event.
“We got a call from the Special Olympics head office and they invited Natalie to provincials,” said coach Jessica Gingrich. “We were ecstatic and she was so excited. This will be my first time at a provincial level competition too, so the excitement is contagious.”
While at the competition, Stevanus will be tested on a number of skating elements including edge work, gliding and turns and then she will perform her dance solo, a routine choreographed to ‘My Heart Will Go On’ from the Titanic soundtrack. She is looking forward to the solo as the most exciting part of the experience.
“I like the pretty dresses,” she said with a laugh, when asked what it is about skating that she loves.
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“When we first saw a skating competition, Natalie just loved it but there was no skating in town anywhere,” said Linda. “We tried to get her into speed skating, but Natalie was having nothing to do with it; she liked the pretty costumes.”
Stevanus will be competing on the provincial stage and, if successful, might also get the opportunity to represent Ontario at the 2012 Special Olympics National Winter Games in St. Albert, Alberta, a prospect that is both exciting and daunting.
“I get nervous,” explained Natalie, who excelled at the qualifying round in Alliston, Ontario last year.
Her family’s scrapbook is filled with skating memorabilia, ribbons, first-place results and accolades are testaments to the fact that her nerves never get the better of her when she gets out onto the ice, and that her family, friends and coaches will be supporting her throughout the process.