EDITORIAL – Congratulations to our Special Olympians

“If I can get one athlete to grow, which might mean to do a stroke correctly without being disqualified in a race, to introduce themselves to other athletes from another country or sometimes to just even show up and participate, or have a family member come to realise that their athlete can accomplish feats that they never dreamed they could, I feel like I have achieved something. If you can ever be part of something that is so simple that brings that feeling to someone, you will never forget it.”

– Penny McDowall

 

Cayman’s Special Olympians will come home with a lot of hardware: 11 gold, 10 silver and 11 bronze medals, all won in this week’s World Games in Abu Dhabi.

Together, the team vaulted to an impressive finish, with many athletes achieving personal bests.

Cayman’s delegation joined approximately 7,500 athletes from more than 190 nations in the competition, which began last Friday. With broad smiles and arms raised in victory, they collected medals and celebrated their achievements.

We celebrated with them, shared their joy and offer our heartiest congratulations. They made our islands proud.

They won gold medals in bocce, swimming and athletics; as teams and individuals. Our unified basketball team, wearing black stripes on their uniforms in remembrance of their late teammate Albert Bodden, earned gold in a hard-fought final game.

We offer our thanks to the coaches and volunteers who supported our World Game delegation and who help our more than 100 athletes and unified partners train throughout the year in furtherance of the organisation’s mission: to enrich the lives of people with intellectual disabilities through sport.

Since the Cayman Islands’ organisation was founded in 1988, our Special Olympians have competed around the world: from Puerto Rico to Dublin, Ireland: from Minnesota, USA, to Shanghai, China, and now, the Middle East. More than an athletic contest, it offers a transformative experience – an opportunity for our athletes to show their skills in a global arena, to meet athletes and supporters from other nations and see a new part of the world.

Through training in aquatics and open water swimming, athletics, football, basketball and bocce, the programme helps build athletes’ skills and confidence, nurtures friendships and promotes healthy lifestyles. It builds relationships and understanding of intellectual disability – dismantling prejudices and dispelling ignorance in the community at large.

Cayman’s Special Olympics athletes have long been blessed with committed, compassionate and competent allies. This year’s delegation played in honour of former swim coach Penny McDowall, the beloved founder of our islands’ Special Olympics swimming programme who passed away in January after a six-year battle with cancer.

It takes a strong commitment and considerable resources to keep the training going, and to send delegation after delegation to participate in the World Olympics. Effusive thanks are due to the organisation’s volunteers and stalwart supporters. We hope others join their ranks and participate in this worthy endeavour.

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