SOJ conducts stand-alone swimming at UTech

BY SANJAY MYERS Observer staff reporter

Saturday, February 08, 2014    

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SPECIAL Olympics Jamaica (SOJ) will have its first stand-alone swimming competition at the University of Technology (UTech) today as part of preparations for the 2015 Los Angeles World Summer Games.

Gabriel Heron, the sports director for swimming, said approximately 30 athletes with intellectual disabilities have registered to participate in different events at various levels.

"Every year there is the National Games, and we have hockey, athletics, etc. But swimming, this year, is going to be on its own at the UTech pool. We will have about 30 athletes ranging from beginners, intermediate and advanced swimmers. We go from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm and there you can see free style, breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly," he said yesterday.

He said that competitors are aged from six to 30 years old and added that 40 per cent of the total number are females.

Heron explained that less advanced participants will be given equipment to aid their swimming.

"Some persons, their disabilities may limit them, but there are some who can swim [without help] and others who can actually swim with a floating device. But, that aside, it will be like regular competition. The longest race will be 100 metres, so in that 25-metre pool it would be four laps," he said.

"We encourage the effort more as opposed to just competitiveness. It's a family-oriented atmosphere. We'll have an award ceremony to reward the efforts of the athletes.

"We have to thank the UTech administration for continuing to give us the use of their facilities. We don't have training sessions out of town because of lack of facilities and coaches, so the operation is basically in town. We train every Saturday at the UTech pool," he added.

Sarah Newland-Martin, the first female physically challenged swimmer to represent Jamaica, is the patron of this event.

The SOJ will also host an athletes' screening event free of cost during today's competition.

"In support of the competition we'll also be having Healthy Athletes' Fair over by the auditorium. Athletes can get check ups free of cost," Heron said.

Screenings will be done on the eyes, ears, teeth, feet, as well as the provision of nutritional tips and all-round health promotion and awareness.

At the most recent global Special Olympics event, Jamaica turned in remarkable performances during the Pyeongchang 2013 Winter Games.

The Jamaicans surprised many by winning individual and team silver medals in ice figure skating to go with their second-place finish in floor hockey at the eight-day Championships in the Republic of Korea.

The Special Olympic International (SOI) body provides people with intellectual challenges the chance to show their athletic capabilities and targets the breaking down of barriers that exclude these persons from mainstream society.

The challenges can either be acquired or genetic and can include cases of autism, Down's Syndrome, traumatic brain injury and cerebral palsy.



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