Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Monday | June 1, 2009
Home : Sport
Officials encouraged by improvement of athletes
Keisha Hill, Staff Reporter

Tamara Mitchell and Nigel Davis wow the audience at the official opening of the Special Olympics Jamaica, 26th Annual National Summer Games, held at the University of Technology, Hope Road, on Friday. - Winston Sill/ Freelance Photographer

Unlike many winners in competitive sports in which only the top three performers are recognised, all athletes who participate in Special Olympic competitions receive a prize for their efforts.

Based on the nature of the participants, the organisers state that this is done to keep the athletes motivated in the hope that they would continue to utilise their skills and abilities to contribute to national development.

Glendon West, meet director of the Special Olympics' 26th annual National Summer Games, held at the University of Technology on the weekend, said the progress of some of the athletes in terms of their abilities and the fact that they are able to participate and follow instructions is a remarkable feat.

"The thing is, everybody is a winner and so that is the concept of Special Olympics. Irrespective of what placing you come in an event everybody gets an award," West said.

"Overall, it was a very competitive meet. We see that the coaches are really working with the athletes and they should be commended," he said.

Extremely excited

During the closing ceremony, executive director of Special Olympics Jamaica, Lorna Bell, said she was extremely excited about the turnout and participation in the two-day event.

"What I saw here over the past two days is telling us is that we are growing and reaching persons with intellectual disabilities. What I am most excited about also is that we were able to include the paralympians in our event," Bell said.

She also used the opportunity to thank major sponsors, the Culture Health, Arts, Sports, Education (CHASE) Fund and the National Housing Trust, which assisted with financial support to enable the meet to be a success.

W. Billy Heaven, chief executive officer of the CHASE Fund, said they were aware that usually, the games had been staged without adequate financial support.

"We applaud the work of the organisation. It is a great effort that the organisation is making to help individuals who are challenged to develop self-confidence, social skills and a sense of personal accomplishment," Heaven said.

True value

The true value of such events, he said, was not merely in the joy and pride of winning, but in the thrill of participating.

"The greatest achievement for these athletes is to feel they have done the best they possibly can," he said.

Dr Carlton Davis, chairman of the board of directors of Special Olympics, said during his closing remarks that it was important to bring these special people into competitive sport.

"It's good physical activity for them and it does a lot for their families. We have been doing this for many years and are trying to continue despite the economic challenges," Dr Davis concluded.

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