Coquitlam’s Stephanie Papillo’s perseverance to compete in synchronized swimming despite her non-verbal learning disability has opened the door for other athletes with similar challenges to be included in the sport.
Last Thursday’s Papillo was honoured as the the city’s top athlete with a disability in 2018 during induction ceremonies for the Coquitlam Sports Hall of Fame.
Since taking up the sport six years ago, Papillo often had to compete on her own, as there was no allowance in synchronized swimming’s rules to allow her to be part of her Aquasonics team at provincial and national events. But that changed with the creation of a new mixed ability category that allowed her to swim with her team at the Lower Mainland regionals and then the provincial championships for the first time last year.
Other athletes honoured included: figure skater Larkyn Austman; New York Islanders forward Mathew Barzal; curler Zachary Curtis; lacrosse goalkeeper Christian Del Bianco; wrestler Justina DiStasio; long jumper Jasmine Lew; wrestler Kye Mills; SFU soccer players Matteo Polisi, Michael North and Danae Robillard; track athletes Addy Townsend and Olivia Willett; field hockey volunteer Elaine Goodman; soccer coach Larry Moro; and the Centennial secondary school senior girls soccer team that just repeated as provincial champions.
Inducted into the Hall of Fame were: volleyball pioneer Vale Savege; synchronized swimmer and broadcaster Karin Larsen; lacrosse sniper John Allen; javelin thrower Mike Mahovolich; and longtime youth coach and dragon boating leader, the late Daniel Strain.