A coalition of Cayman’s most beloved athletes are traveling across the world to compete on a global stage.
Cayman’s Special Olympics team met Monday at Government House for a reception ahead of their trip to the Special Olympics World Games, which will take place March 14-21 in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.
The team is leaving Thursday morning, and Governor Martyn Roper wanted to see them off.
“I hope you enjoy being in Government House and looking at this wonderful view,” he said. “Like all of you, I like to keep fit and do lots of exercise. I jog up and down the beach every day in the morning before it’s even light. When I jog next week, I’ll be thinking of you doing all your sport in Abu Dhabi.”
Cayman’s Special Olympics delegation consists of 19 local athletes, seven unified partners, seven coaches, two assistant staff coaches, a head of delegation and an assistant head of delegation.
Four of Cayman’s Special Olympics athletes will be competing in the pool, and three will swim in open water. Seven will compete in athletics, and four will take part in unified basketball.
One local athlete, Khalid Arana, will participate in unified bocce with partner Nadesha Kelly.
Adrian Lynch, the chairman of the Special Olympics board of directors, will make the trip, as will Rod McDowall, husband of the late Special Olympics swim coach Penny McDowall.
“I’m extremely excited to go to Abu Dhabi with all my team members,” said Chelsea Frederick, who will compete in both the shot put and the javelin events at the Special Olympics.
“I’m really happy and can’t wait to go. I’m overjoyed, excited and everything. I can’t wait to go,” she said.
Kenneth Figueira, track and field coach, said his athletes are primed to give their best effort.
“This particular group was identified about two years ago,” he said. “This group has been training intensively since August. The benefits will happen at the games, but they have grown over the period of time. I’m pretty excited, but that excitement I have to contain, so it doesn’t spread to them.”
Special Olympics Cayman Islands was formed in 1988, and local athletes first competed on the world stage in 1991. Four years ago, Cayman’s Special Olympians competed in the World Games in Los Angeles.
“We’ve been training since we got back from LA. We came back with a bronze in our division,” said basketball coach Fareed Hosein. “It’s been a long journey. There have been a lot of trials and tribulations. Last year, we actually lost one of our athletes. He died suddenly.
“Last year was a difficult year for us, but they’re looking forward to the journey.”
Mr. Hosein said their fallen teammate, Albert Bodden, will never be far from their minds in Abu Dhabi.
Many of these same athletes were also active four years ago in Los Angeles, but the trip to Abu Dhabi will represent an exotic location that most of the delegation has never seen before.
While they are there, said Governor Roper, they will be representing the best that Cayman has to offer.
“The best communities and the best societies in the world are those that value the diversity and uniqueness of each and every one of us,” he said. “I think this is a fantastic thing you’re doing in going to the Special Olympics, and huge thanks to the committee for everything they do to make this happen.”