Proud of our Special Olympics delegation

Friday, March 22, 2019

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That our Special Olympics team would have performed well at the 2019 World Summer Games in the United Arab Emirates was never in doubt. The team, though, has given us an even more special gift — a total of 33 medals, four more than they won at the 2015 Summer Games in California, United States.

By winning 15 gold, 10 silver and eight bronze medals, the Jamaicans have again proven their sporting prowess and the entire country, we hold, should be extremely proud of them.

All the performances are worthy of high praise, but we must make special mention of 17-year-old Mr Kirk Wint who, running on his hands and knees — due to deformed lower limbs — won a silver medal in the 50-metre race.

As our sports journalist Mr Sanjay Myers reported, young Mr Wint's effort touched the hearts of spectators inside the Dubai Police Officers' Club due to his display of sheer determination, strength, and bravery.

Expectedly, the team's athletics head coach, Mr Andre Johnstone, was very pleased, describing Mr Wint's performance as remarkable. “He created much cheer from the spectators as he raced by the more able-bodied athletes to take second place,” Mr Johnstone said.

Mr Myers, in his report, reminded readers that at the 2015 Summer Games in the US, Mr Wint, then 13 years old, narrowly missed the bronze in the 50m event, and a day later won gold in soft ball throw.

Mr Damion Gordon must also come in for recognition, having scored a hat-trick to lead Jamaica to a 3-0 win over Austria in the Division Two gold medal football match.

But while we celebrate the achievements of our athletes, we must, as we have already pointed out in this newspaper, remember that the Special Olympics is not only about winning medals. Indeed, the athlete's oath speaks to that: “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt,” it states.

As such, we recognise that the games are a celebration of humanity, kindness, courage, determination, and hope. They also provide the opportunity to amplify calls of inclusion for all people, regardless of background and ability or disability.

In that regard, we congratulate the athletes who represented Jamaica in aquatics, athletics, badminton, basketball, bocce, football, roller skating, and volleyball. Kudos also to their coaches and other members of the Jamaican delegation who accompanied and guided the team to and from the games.

Mrs Lorna Bell, executive director of Special Olympics Jamaica, is also worthy of commendation for her unwavering commitment to the development of athletes with disabilities.

We also commend Mr Usain Bolt, Jamaican Olympian and the man who still holds the world sprint records, for the assistance he has offered to Special Olympics Jamaica. Readers will recall that in January this year, Mr Bolt pledged $1 million to support Jamaica's participation at these Abu Dhabi Games.

Mr Bolt, who is now retired from athletics, had announced that, in addition to the $1 million, sports apparel company Puma, with whom he has a long-standing endorsement deal, has agreed to fully outfit the Jamaica team at the games.

That, we hold, is a most generous and wonderful gesture and one that speaks to his recognition of the Special Olympics' purpose to foster inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities.

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