By Dillon Collins
To persevere is defined as the ability to continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty. Perhaps no young athlete across Newfoundland and Labrador embodies heart, intestinal fortitude and perseverance quite like Andrew Hynes.
Andrew – a 35-year-old Special Olympian based out of Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s – was born with the multi-system disorder Williams Syndrome. Yet his tenacity, good-natured attitude and heart has propelled him through more than 25 years of success in athletics. His latest and most personal accolade saw the veteran of local and national sport journey across the globe for an opportunity reserved for an elite few.
Andrew and his longtime friend, Lynette Wells, were selected to be a part of the torch run leading up to the 2023 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Berlin, Germany (June 17-25, 2023), representing the Law Enforcement Torch Run Special Olympics for Newfoundland and Labrador. The duo were two of only 110 participants from around the world in the torch’s final leg – with Andrew being one of only 10 athletes, and the only selection from Canada.
“It’s pretty mind-boggling what happened over there,” shares Andrew in a recent sit-down with Downhome. “It was a pretty emotional experience for me as an athlete and as a person. My parents couldn’t come with me, so I was there all by myself. But I knew that the person who went over with me was going to take care of me, and I knew that I was going to have great people surrounding me.”
Andrew’s relationship with Lynette goes back over two decades, with the pair originally selected as torch runners for the 2022 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Kazan, Russia. Those games, however, were cancelled amidst the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
Shaking off the disappointment of events beyond their control, Andrew and Lynette applied and were selected for the prestigious honour in Germany, with Andrew – a longtime dedicated Special Olympian in his own right – over the moon to represent his country and home province overseas.
“I just got goosebumps from you saying that actually,” Andrew shares of the reality of being the only Canadian athlete selected to carry the torch.
“It’s mind-opening, it’s crazy. Like, there’s so many good Canadian athletes in Canada and they picked a guy from a small community in Newfoundland. I mean, we don’t get recognized very much for sports and stuff down here in Newfoundland, but we’re going to get recognized for this, that’s for sure.”
Embraced by his fellow torchbearers and the hordes of athletes represented at the games, the experience was eye-opening and monumental for a young man who overcame no shortage of hardship to reach it.
Andrew’s mother, Corena Boland Greeley, a superb athlete herself and longtime rower, recently overcame stage four bowel cancer. Her fight helped propel Andrew during his 40 km trek across nearly four days.
“It’s pretty amazing to see my mom doing so well now,” Andrew shared proudly. “I went over to Germany and it finally came time for me to go. She was really happy for me. And so was I. So it’s really nice.”
Back home with his torch in tow, Andrew has endeavoured to share his own piece of sports history with his family, friends and home province.
“I was wondering what I was going to do with it, and I actually got it and I was like, man, I’m going to go here, I want to go there. I want to take [the torch] because it’s not only for me, it’s for everyone else who got me there.”
Watching his mother and the extended Greeley clan at the lake – a legacy family in Newfoundland’s rowing culture – Andrew was bitten hard by the sports bug at a young age. Individual achievements would morph into a love of team sports – from track and field to floor hockey and soccer – where Andrew would suit up for Special Olympics Canada in a series of national games across two decades.
“Going down to the pond and watching my mother race, and watching my step-father race, and his family are so involved in it. I was a little kid just going down and watching my mom race and watching her row. I wanted to get into sports. And once that opportunity came around, I went into sports and got my own medals. Yeah, it’s pretty cool,” Andrew recalls proudly, searching for a moment for advice he’d pass on to budding sports hopefuls.
“You just need to keep going. Don’t listen to other people if they doubt you, just don’t listen to that. Just fight and go to the gym. Working out really helps. If you go to the gym, you put in the work, good things will happen. So keep working out and keep grinding, and it will come.”