Tim Vancoughnett was born in Parry Sound on February 6, 1961. Before he was one year old a specialist at Sick Kids Hospital, diagnosed Tim as developmentally delayed. Little did the specialist know that Tim would develop into a wonderful caring individual who would one day be a Special Olympian and Canadian Champion in cross country skiing and track & field.
As a child, Tim was active and very mobile. He crawled all over the place, on the counter, on the fridge, on tables; it seemed no place was insurmountable. Before he was two years old, Tim started to walk. And was soon running to make better time. At five years of age, Tim attended the Kinsmen School. Although he could not speak, this did not prevent him from communicating with others using facial expressions and hand gestures. His outgoing personality allowed him to get along with everyone. At age, six he took up skating when his Dad worked at the Nobel outdoor rink. He would skate for hours, come home exhausted and would be eager to go at it the next day.
Tim’s interest in skiing began when he was seven years old. However, it was not until he was fifteen years old that he developed a real passion for cross country skiing. He thought he had won a lottery when he was outfitted with his own skis boots and poles. His level of skill developed quickly. In the summer he fulfilled is desire to compete by playing softball and participating in track & field events.
For more than thirty years Tim participated in local and regional Special Olympics competitions winning medals in cross-country skiing, Track & Field, softball, bowling and snowshoeing and speed skating. In 1985, he qualified to compete in his first Provincial Summer Special Olympic and went on to compete in four more Provincial Summer Olympic Games, in 1989, 1993, 1997 and 2001. He competed in a total five Provincial Winter Special Olympic Games, 1987, 1991, 1995, 2003, 2007.
In 1988, he qualified to represent Ontario in the first National Winter Games for Special Olympics, held in Edmonton, New Brunswick. He was given a resounding send off when over nine hundred Parry Sound residents signed a congratulatory card for him. He came home with 1 Gold Medal, and 1 Silver medal. Tim went on to compete in two more National Winter Special Olympic Games, in 2000 and 2004.
In December 2001, Tim had an unfortunate accident, breaking his ankle, leg and dislocating his foot. The Doctors feared he might never be able to complete again. He proved them wrong. Therapy, coupled with a resolute perseverance and an unrelenting determination he was able to overcome this adversity. Amazingly he qualified for his only National Summer Special Olympics in 2002, held in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan where he won 2 Silver and 1 Bronze. It was an unbelievable performance considering what he had been through eight months earlier. Tim’s love of sports enabled him to excel at the highest levels for a Special Olympian.
Tim has been involved with Special Olympics at the Provincial Level and the National Level for over twenty years. He won a total of thirty-three medals, 11 Gold, 9 Silver and 13 Bronze. He has been an outstanding example of true sportsmanship and for spirit of Special Olympics. His vibrant personality made him many friends, not only in the Special Olympics community but with many people right across Canada.
Tim exemplifies the Special Olympics Motto, “LET ME WIN, BUT IF I CANNOT WIN, LET ME BE BRAVE IN THE ATTEMPT”.
Like Bobby Orr, Tim’s hard work and passion for competition have made him a role model among his peers. Jo-Anne Demick, Executive Director of Community Living Parry Sound says, “Tim Vancoughnett epitomizes everything great in an athlete. He does so with strength and courage and with a great sense of humour. He is a true sportsman in every sense of the word and is an inspiration to all of us, as he has overcome numerous obstacles to gain success and recognition at his chosen sports”.
In addition to athletics, Tim, like Bobby Orr, has a real interest in fishing. He really enjoys the challenge of trying to land the big one. It does not matter whether he is fishing in the summer or ice fishing in the winter, he loves the outdoors. Due to health reasons, he has retired from all competitive sports, except for cross-country, which he does as often as he can.
Tim’s many accomplishments have not gone unnoticed. In 1997 he was Male Athlete of the Year for Special Olympics Ontario Region 9, in 2000 he received the Order of Parry Sound, in 2003, and The Township of McKellar paid tribute to Tim for his success at the National Special Olympics Games. He was on the winning Special Olympics Hockey Team that won the Darryl Sittler Hockey Trophy.
Tim’s Mom, his biggest fan, has travelled with him to every competition. As a coach, she provided the necessary encouragement and emotional support required for him to complete at the highest levels. In addition to his mom, his dad, his sister, two brothers, six nephews, two nieces, one great niece and many uncles, aunts and cousins think the world of him and support him in whatever he does. His aunt Judy is particularly close to him and he leans on her in times of need. He is blessed with a loving and caring family.
Tim is a very special individual and it is most fitting that he is the first Special Olympian to be inducted into the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame. It is a most deserving honour for a wonderful person who has persevered with grace, determination and conviction. Congratulations Tim, we’re proud of you.