Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.
That is the Special Olympics oath. That is just one of the many reasons why Special Olympics has an exceptional place in my heart.
Honourable senators, as the Speaker mentioned, we have with us today exceptional athletes who competed at the World Summer Games two months ago in Abu Dhabi. They are both from Ottawa: Sophie Anne Lacourse-Pudifin and Kimana Mar. They are world-class gymnasts.
Other members from across the country on this gold-medal team are Sarah Lisi, Amber Harriman, Annick Léger and Julia Kostecki.
Today I would like to talk briefly about Sophie and Kimana. Why? Because they are my friends. I first got to know them a number of years ago at the Ottawa School of Dance DragonFly Company, a program for learners with Down syndrome.
You know what, honourable senators? These young women can do anything in this brave, new world of inclusion. Not only are they rhythmic gymnasts; they are ballet dancers. They have the ability to do anything they want to do. Today, honourable senators, ever so briefly, I want to walk you into their world, which is my world, and give praise where praise is due.
In preparation for the Special Olympic World Games where 7,000 athletes competed from 192 countries, Sophie Anne Lacourse-Pudifin knew she had to work hard and she did. She trained over 15 hours a week with the Ottawa Rhythmic Spirals and the Ottawa Rhythmic Gymnastics Club while going to school and completing a job placement. Think about it. This is what hard work and support and determination can do for one person.
The reward in Abu Dhabi at the World Games — she placed first overall in the top-level event. She won seven gold medals.
Honourable senators, here in Ottawa she is known as the golden girl of her neighbourhood called McKellar Park.
Listen to the words of Kimana:
I felt really good on the carpet showing what I could do.
Well, Sophie and Kimana, in closing, we really feel good for you today. All Special Olympics athletes have a special place in our hearts. For the record, Canada came home with the most hardware: 90 gold, 37 silver and 28 bronze.
Our athletes were brave in their attempts and they did win. More than anything, they competed in what they love to do. They took their place in Special Olympics where the power of sport is transformative.
These athletes know, like Sophie and Kimana know — and I know and this country knows — Canada has the power of inclusion. Thank you.