SEOUL, Republic of Korea — President and managing director of Special Olympic North America, Bob Gobrecht, said Jamaica is a model for developing countries across the globe seeking to improve their respective programmes for intellectually disabled athletes.
Speaking to the Jamaica Observer at the World Winter Games registration centre in Seoul, Republic of Korea, Gobrecht said Special Olympics Jamaica is doing work that Jamaicans should be "proud of".
"The Jamaican nation is actually a leader in the movement around the world. For a developing country you have said 'this is important', and we look at Jamaica with a great deal of respect.
"A lot of countries want to model their Special Olympics programme like Jamaica, and Jamaicans should be proud of that," said the region's Special Olympics head.
The Special Olympic Games provide the opportunity for people with intellectual disabilities to display their skills and capabilities and target the breaking down of barriers that exclude them from mainstream society.
The disabilities can either be acquired or genetic, and can include cases of cerebral palsy, Down's Syndrome, traumatic brain injury, and autism.
Gobrecht stressed that he wants to see these athletes get the recognition similar to legendary Jamaican Olympian Usain Bolt, and added that the Pyeongchang 2013 World Games could be one of the biggest Special Olympics to date.
"The movement is about human potential and inclusion. Our athletes deserve the right to be on the platform like any athlete... Like your great athlete Usain Bolt or any athlete.
"The Korean nation has come together to put on a world-class event. We have over 2,000 athletes from all over the world and I think it'll be one of our best Winter Games... We are very excited about it.
"The Summer and Winter Games are both growing. There is more demand for it and we now have over four million athletes throughout the world and all of those have the aspiration to come to the World Games. Over 100 nations are here and over 175 nations across the world are involved with the Special Olympics," he said.
The Jamaicans will compete in floor hockey and ice figure skating at the January 29 to February 5 Championships. Jamaica won floor hockey gold in Idaho 2009 after defeating Canada in the final.