THOUGH winning the floor hockey gold medal at the previous Winter Games in Idaho, head of delegation for the Special Olympics Jamaica (SOJ) team, Glendon West, is cautious with his predictions ahead of today's departure to the 2013 Championships in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
West told the Jamaica Observer he is relatively comfortable with the preparation, but noted that lack of familiarity with the other participants makes it difficult to accurately assess the Jamaicans' chances at the January 29 to February 5 showpiece.
"We have been preparing for two years... it (the preparation) is no different from previous years and we think we have done enough work leading up. It wasn't always ideal because the surface we practised on isn't so smooth, so the puck (hockey object) wouldn't come on as true as it should," he said yesterday.
"In terms of medal, I'm not sure what colour it will be, but we'll just go and do our best. The thing is you don't know your competitors and what they are capable of... until you meet them," West added.
The Special Games provides the opportunity for people with intellectual disabilities to display their skills and capabilities and targets the breaking down of barriers that exclude those individuals from mainstream society.
The disabilities may either be acquired or genetic and can include cases of autism, cerebral palsy, Down's Syndrome and traumatic brain injury.
Jamaica defeated Canada, 8-7, in the final in 2009, and the leader of the current delegation reasoned that the gold medal was a culmination of all the positive work put in over the years.
"We have been doing pretty well since we started floor hockey in 1989 and, of course, at the last one we mined gold," he said.
Aside from floor hockey, the Jamaicans will embark on the uniquely artistic and novel quest of competing in ice figure skating.
West expressed optimism of a medal placing in that event for Nigel Davis and Tamra Mitchell, both of whom departed for Florida last week for a seven-day camp.
"It (figure skating) is new territory for us... I don't think any athlete from Jamaica at the Winter Games -- whether the Special Olympics or regular IOC Olympics -- has tried figure skating.
"The final preparation went on in Florida and they broke camp yesterday. Based on the ability of both athletes in roller skating, I think they will do pretty well on ice. I'm hoping we'll be on the medal podium...," he said.
The two skaters are slated to join the 16 hockey players when they arrive in New York later today. The rest of the delegation includes floor hockey head coach Yolanda Reid, as well as assistants Valery Murphy and Michelle Romans.
Jacqueline Bennett is the figure skating coach, while Patricia Lue-Chin is the team's physiotherapist.
The SOJ's major backing has come from telecommunication giants Digicel, while Sports Development Foundation (SDF), Development Options Limited, Puma, Team Jamaica Bickle and the Law Enforcement Officers group have also provided sponsorship and support.
Head of delegation: Glendon West
Coaches: Yolanda Reid, Valery Murphy, Michelle Romans and Jacqueline Bennett.
Physiotherapist: Patricia Lue-Chin
Athletes: Dwight Brooks, Omar Brown, Oshaine Daley, Rayan Farquharson, Andre Folkes, Jason Grant, Dexter Haughton, Jermaine Henry, Keneil Hewitt, Andrew Hinds, Lucan Jones, Sydney Manyan, Shawn Myers, Craig Nelson, Matthew Tarawali, David Thompson, Nigel Davis and Tamra Mitchell.