When Marc Theriault received an email inviting him to skate in the spotlight of a Rock The Rink show, he jumped at the chance.
“As soon as I found out, I told my figure skating coach, Elizabeth Roman, that I wanted to do a new program for the figure skating show,” Theriault recalled. “I suggested a song, and she said it’s perfect for me.”
That song is “Living Out Your Dreams,” by French-Canadian singer Roch Voisine, and Theriault has been practicing his routine to the tune at North Surrey Skating Club sessions over the past few months.
“The song, it has real meaning through the whole part of my life, and I’m going to be living out my dreams by being part of this big figure skating show.”
A multiple medal-winning Special Olympian, Theriault is set to skate as a guest during a Rock the Rock tour stop at Abbotsford Centre on Saturday, Oct. 5, in a show that will feature Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Patrick Chan, Kaetlyn Osmond and Elvis Stojko.
Theriault is among more than two dozen Special Olympics athletes invited to perform during a Rock the Rink skating show this fall, as part of a 31-city Canadian tour.
Theriault has been a Special Olympics athlete for close to two dozen years – not only in figure skating but also 10-pin bowling, curling, soccer and softball. He is the first athlete in Special Olympics BC history to win gold medals at four World Games in three different sports. In 2008 he was inducted into Special Olympics BC’s Hall of Fame, and in Thunder Bay next February he will again compete at the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games.
Theriault, 41, started skating at age six in Gatineau, Quebec, where he lived until his family moved to the Surrey area in the mid-1990s. Today, he lives in Delta, works at a Hudson’s Bay Company warehouse, and practices figure skating several times a week at rinks in Surrey.
When the Rock the Rink partnership with Special Olympics Canada was announced in August, news stories reported that the guest skaters would not be paid for their performances.
Theriault said he doesn’t expect to be paid for being part of the show.
“The chance to skate with all those guys, it’s a dream come true,” he said in an interview outside the new North Surrey Sport & Ice Complex, “and it also helps Special Olympics, the athletes, to show what we’re capable of doing on the ice, so people can see how good we are.
“It’s not about money, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Dan Howe, the president and CEO and Special Olympics BC, said the organization is “ecstatic” to have its athletes featured in Rock the Rink shows.
“We have seen and heard some of the comments about individuals not being paid,” Howe said, “but we look at it as such a significant opportunity for our athletes to be part of this, to perform in front of a group of people who probably would not know much about their skill level, or about their dedication to their sport.”
Howe said he’s talked to Special Olympians about the issue, including Theriault.
“None of them feel taken advantage of, they just feel so grateful to be given the opportunity to skate with their idols and skate in front of a large crowd, to be included and treated with respect as an athlete,” he said. “They recognize that these kinds of opportunities don’t come along every day.”
On Oct. 5, Theriault and his family will drive to the rink in Abbotsford for a bit of practice time and to meet the other skaters. Then it’s show time, starting at 7 p.m.
“I’m not nervous, I’m looking forward to it,” Theriault said with a smile.
The tour will serve as a farewell for Canadian ice dancing stars Virtue and Moir, who on Sept. 17 announced they are stepping away from the sport following Rock the Rink dates this fall. The tour starts in Abbotsford and ends Nov. 23 in St. John’s, N.L.