Joe Covaci, a member of Community Christian Reformed Church in Kitchener, Ont., competed with Team Canada in the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi March 14 to 21, 2019. A runner, he competed in the 5,000-meter and 3,000-meter distances, placing fourth in the longer run and earning a bronze medal in the 3,000-meter distance.
Bernard De Jonge, a volunteer leader with Community CRC’s Friendship Club, said Covaci had been training for four years with Special Olympics, entering local competitions and then regional, provincial, and national meets before being selected to represent Canada in Abu Dhabi. Friendship Ministries helps churches and organizations around the world share God’s love with people who have cognitive impairments. Covaci is a regular member of Community CRC’s Friendship Club.
“In our Friendship Club meetings, months prior to the event, he would give an update on his progress to the Olympics, and when the time came for him to leave for the events, our club prayed for him,” De Jonge said. “At our Friendship Club meeting on his return, we all stood in a circle, and I called Joe into the center. He gave us his report and the club cheered.”
De Jonge said the whole congregation was apprised of Covaci’s success with a video of his time in Abu Dhabi. When he returned, he came to church wearing his medal and gave a report (with his mom) during a morning service, De Jonge said. “Kitchener’s Friendship Club is extremely proud of what Joe has accomplished,” he added.
Covaci, who is visually and cognitively impaired, competes with the help of a tethered athletic guide. He was among roughly 7,000 athletes from around the world competing in 24 different individual and team sports at the Special Olympics World Games, Abu Dhabi 2019.