Sport

SOJ volleyball, swim teams sharpen for World Games

BY SANJAY MYERS
Senior staff reporter
myerss@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, February 11, 2019

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The Special Olympics Jamaica (SOJ) volleyball team is looking to make its mark at the 2019 Abu Dhabi Games next month, after the country did not medal in the event four years ago in Los Angeles.

SOJ has gone all in this time around, entering both women's and men's teams. The men's team comprises athletes all with intellectual disabilities, while the women's contingent is unified which means a blend of athletes with disabilities and those without.

Loran Grant, the SOJ volleyball head coach, said the players have gelled as a unit and are primed for success in the United Arab Emirates.

“The team has been gelling, though the players are people from different background. It takes a while to form the kind of nucleus we are looking for, but it has become easier and the team is pulling as one. As long as they stick to the game plan I think they can win [gold],” Grant told the Jamaica Observer.

“To get the athletes [with disabilities] and [unified] partners to work together, we have mentorship with the partners as mentors for the athletes. So anything they see the partner does in relation to the game they try to do it, so it makes it easier for the coaching staff to get across the information,” Grant explained.

Allan Levy, the assistant coach who has particular responsibility for the male team, said much of the emphasis during training sessions at Randolph Lopez School of Hope and at the SOJ multi-purpose facility has been on keeping players sharp.

“It's coming on very well; all the players who started recently have reached good levels, so we are ready for the Games. But we have to still keep them going, so they stay in touch with what they are suppose to do,” Levy said.

Jamaica's swimmers will aim to make their customary splash after enjoying success at the 2015 Games, hauling in multiple medals.

Head coach Gabriel Heron and his assistant Alecia Newman will have charge of five SOJ aquatic athletes — Leon Barclay, Andrew Bartholomew, Nicholas McBean, Kadian Ingleton and Rachael Charles.

Of note, Ingleton will take part in open water swimming — a trek of 1500 metres which amounts to 60 laps of a 25-metre pool.

The just gone Christmas break aside, Newman has a positive take on the pre-competition readiness.

“It has been a very hectic season. We broke for Christmas and you know what happens in the Christmas period, so we are trying to tweak now.

“But the athletes are anxious, they are excited and they are looking forward to winning gold. That's all they have on their minds, no one is saying anything silver or bronze, it's just gold,” she told the Observer.

The Special Olympics movement provides sporting opportunities as well as health care to children and adults with intellectual disabilities, with the goal of instilling confidence and promoting their chances of leading successful lives.

The opportunity that the Abu Dhabi Games presents was not lost on Newman.

“They are ready and they also know this is about fun and meeting people from various countries, so they are really looking forward to it,” she said.

The 2019 World Games are scheduled to run from March 14 to 21. Jamaicans are also down to compete in football, badminton, track and field, roller skating, basketball and bocce.


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