NANAIMO — Winning two gold medals and a bronze at the Special Olympics World Summer Games wasn't the main victory for Nanaimo athlete Arianna Phillips.
It was posting personal bests in all three of her competitions, 4x100 metre relay, 200 metre run and high jump, which made the competition in Abu Dhabi such a success.
“That hit me more than getting the medals around my neck. I'm always hoping for a new personal best. That's always an athlete's goal,” she told NanaimoNewsNOW once she was back home after an arduous journey marred by numerous delayed flights.
The 16-year-old Indigenous teen’s first personal best was achieved during the qualifying round on March 12, when she cleared a high jump bar set at 1.32 metres.
Between qualifiying for high jump and winning the gold medal, she also posted a personal best and won bronze in the 200 metre run.
“I put everything I had into everything I did there,” she said of the thrilling and exhausting competition.
She easily obtained the gold medal in high jump on medal day, clearing a bar set at 1.20 metres but said “it wasn’t enough.”
“I kept going and every time I hit the bar down on my way to my personal best, I had to keep myself calm. I couldn’t get into my head.”
It was a struggle to not buckle under the pressure. The bar fell at 1.34 metres and she was upset at the idea she couldn’t push herself further to overcome her new personal best.
“But when I came back to do it again, I knew I was ready and I knew I could do it.”
With the bar set at 1.37 metres, four-and-a-half feet, she calmly and determinedly ran forward and put as much force as she could muster into her jump.
When she landed on the mat, she’d secured her new personal best.
“As soon as I hit the mat I looked straight at the bar. Seeing that bar not fall...I fell crying. When I got back up I took two steps and fell back down again with a lot of emotion.”
Three days later, she and Team Canada took gold in the 4x100 metre relay.
She travelled to Abu Dhabi with her mother and family, but there was one relative missing which made the victory bitter sweet.
When she learned she was going to the Special Olympics World event one of the first people she told was her nanny, who started crying at the news.
“It meant so much because we don’t normally see my nanny cry,” Phillips said. “She’s just one of those people who doesn’t.”
Her nanny unfortunately passed away a week after learning Phillips would make the family proud in Abu Dhabi.
“This whole thing has been for her,” Phillips said, remembering how difficult it was not to cry when thinking about how proud her nanny would be.
Even with three personal bests and medals from the biggest Special Olympics event in the world for summer sports, her drive isn’t lessened in the slightest.
She now hopes to make it to the Winter Special Olympics for figure skating, a sport which was her passion before finding her wings on the track.
Patrick Reid of Victoria also brought home a gold medal for doubles bowling.
On Twitter: @spencer_sterrit
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