Olympians off to Japan

HIMANI EDIRIWEERA -- TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 9:01 AM ET

Richard Scully intends to bring home more than just memories from the 2005 World Winter Games -- the torch runner plans to bring home gold with the men's floor hockey team. Special Olympics Canada left Toronto this morning with 72 athletes competing in a range of winter sports held at the official venue of the 1998 winter Olympics -- Nagano, Japan.

Scully, 36, is one of the athletes chosen to compete with the floor hockey team that prides itself on being undefeated in nine years.

"I'm excited and people I know say 'don't come home unless you have a gold medal,'" Scully said at last night's sendoff at the Delta Toronto Airport Hotel.

"I'm good, I'm good. I'm excellent."

Scully said the team will place a loonie under the goal posts to bring them the win.

The games will bring together more than 1,900 athletes from more than 80 countries, a number comparable to the number of participants in the 1998 Olympics.

12,000 SPECTATORS

Team Canada, selected for training one year ago, includes athletes in figure skating, speed skating, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

Marian Coulson, the head of the delegation, said the games are expected to attract more than 12,000 spectators.

"It's like what anyone gets out of sport -- building self-esteem, achieving goals and playing a field to show the world what they're capable of," Coulson said. "People don't think they're serious athletes but they've done a lot of work."

Speed skater Tammi-Lyn Deveau of Sudbury said she's ready to show the world what she's capable of.

"I'd really like gold, but if not, just anything so I can say I got a medal," Deveau, 31, said. "The team is great. We cheer each other on, help each other out and give support if one fails."

The games officially open Feb. 26 -- with Scully running with the torch -- and end March 6.

"I hope I don't drop it -- it will burn my hands," Scully said.


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