***Update, 1:30 p.m. 15 March***
The first official day of competition at the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi began Friday, and many of the 190-plus nations and 7,500 athletes had their first chances to test their mettle.
Cayman’s unified basketball team, which took home a bronze medal four years ago at the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles, got off to a quick start. Cayman defeated Iraq’s team by a 14-13 score and later got back onto the court to defeat Algeria by a 27-16 final score.
A few of Cayman’s athletes performed before Thursday’s Opening Ceremonies.
In the pool, Anechell Mariah Newman swam a preliminary round of the 50-meter backstroke in 1:47.17 on Tuesday and a 50-meter freestyle leg of 1:28.65 on Wednesday. Alec Brice Cox was also active for Cayman, swimming a 4 X 50m medley relay preliminary in a time of 2:55.23 on Wednesday.
In athletics, Chelsea Frederick tossed the shot put 9.55 meters in a preliminary round on Tuesday and competed in a preliminary round of the mini javelin on Wednesday.
The eyes of the world are on Abu Dhabi. The Opening Ceremonies for the Special Olympics World Games took place Thursday evening Abu Dhabi time – which is six hours ahead of Cayman – and Cayman’s delegation was one of more than 190 nations involved in the spectacle.
Zayed Sports City Stadium, the largest stadium in the United Arab Emirates, served as the host venue on Thursday, and the participating athletes marched in procession as part of the Opening Ceremonies. Later, the cauldron for the Special Olympics was lit to punctuate the ceremony and open the games.
Cayman’s team, which consists of 19 athletes, seven unified partners, seven coaches, two assistant staff coaches, a head of delegation and an assistant head of delegation, left for Abu Dhabi on March 7.
Four of Cayman’s Special Olympics competitors will be swimming indoors, and three more will swim in open water. Seven will compete in athletics, and four will take part in unified basketball. The basketball team brought home a bronze medal from the Los Angeles Special Olympics four years ago.
More than 7,500 athletes from all over the world will compete in this year’s events.
The assorted Olympic teams participated in the host town program over the last few days, which allowed them to make new friends and experience the culture of the UAE. Cayman’s athletes were able to visit several local landmarks before marching in Thursday’s opening ceremony.
The athletic competition will begin in earnest on Friday and continue until March 20.
Beaver Julius Smith, Chelsea Frederick, Jaheim O’Connell Ebanks, Tessa Terry, Jordan Owen McLean, Lewin Alvin Solomon Jr. and Matthew Leigh Ebanks will be representing Cayman in athletics.
Shaun Douglas Ebanks, Andrew Nijel Smiley, Junior Michael Peart and Jharran Cameron-Kimahri Greenidge will represent Cayman in basketball, and they will be paired with unified partners Jamel Osmond Winton, Rhomar Robert Rueben Williams and Trevor Leonardo Powell.
Alec Brice Cox, Kanza Rose Bodden and Rasheed Nathan Lawrence will suit up for Cayman in open water swimming, and unified partners Jennifer Lisa Powell and Lee Paul Hart will accompany them.
Anechell Mariah Newman, Dayana Yereina Powery, Keanu Miguel McKenzie and Matthew Morta Javier will be the Cayman swimmers looking for gold in the indoor swimming competition.