Campbell River Special Olympics athlete Michelle Forberg said she always wanted to meet a star, and her first trip to Los Angeles seemed like the perfect opportunity. Little did she know the star would turn out to be a fellow Canadian.
Pop star Justin Bieber’s visit with Team Canada was just one of the many highlights for Forberg as she competed with the basketball team at the recent Special Olympics World Games.
On the court, though, it was strictly business.
“It was just like another tournament,” said Forberg, 23. “That’s how the coaches told us to look at it.”
Forberg, a five-year veteran of Campbell River Special Olympics basketball program, was picked for the World Games team through her previous participation in provincial and national competition.
“She was very deserving. She plays very hard and practices hard,” said her local coach, Melanie Rodway. “They nicknamed her ‘Elbows.’”
Campbell River’s Michelle Forberg, right front, and the rest of the Team Canada delegation got a visit from pop star Justin Bieber during the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles. — Jim Peterson photo
Forberg was the only woman, and the only Vancouver Islander, on a team otherwise made up of Vancouver-area players, and traveled almost every weekend to practice for the Games.
She said she enjoyed the whole experience of the World Games, from the opening ceremonies with Bieber and U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, to shopping and visiting the Orange County Fair between games.
“Always one of my favourite parts is meeting new people,” said Forberg, whose mother, Ann, and sister Briana traveled to L.A. for five days to visit and watch the action.
“And sometimes meeting people from countries you’ve never heard of,” Ann Forberg added with a laugh.
Team Canada did not win a game in the basketball tournament, but took Belgium down to the buzzer before falling 36-32 in the bronze-medal game in their division.
“All the teams were really strong,” Michelle said. “When we first started playing I had a lot of nerves going against teams we hadn’t seen before.
“It was really big. All you could hear running back and forth is people screaming. You just have to learn to block it out.”
Forberg, who has also competed in soccer, baseball and swimming for Campbell River Special Olympics, is planning to take a break and look for a job.
But she would recommend the experience.
“If somebody has the chance, I’d encourage them to go to a World Games,” she said.