Sport

Special Olympics swimming meet a 'huge success'

BY SANJAY MYERS Observer staff reporter myerss@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, February 10, 2014    

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EAGER participants converged on the University of Technology pool on Saturday to make the first-ever Special Olympics Jamaica (SOJ) stand-alone swimming competition a "huge success".

Gabriel Heron, the sports director for swimming, said he was pleased with the athletes' effort and level of competitiveness under the watchful eyes of board members of the SOJ as well as other spectators.

"I would say the event was a huge success. It's a first time we've had a stand-alone Special Olympics swimming competition and it really went smoothly. The schedule was managed well and there were all smiles at the end.

"The athletes clearly enjoyed themselves and the level of interaction was high. Because of the excitement of the competition they (the participants) kept coming to ask me when would be the next race. It spoke to their spirit but it was also about the effort they wanted to put in, and in Special Olympics that is important," he said following the event staged for persons with intellectual disabilities.

Heron praised the support that SOJ received from those within and outside of the local body.

"We got a lot of support from parents, volunteers, time keepers, coaches, Minister [Natalie] Neita-Headley, who came to speak, and others. There was so much support, not only from within Special Olympics but outside as well," the swimming director said, while thanking telecommunications firm Digicel for providing tents and UTech for being hosts.

He said the meet provided valuable preparation for swimmers and has laid the platform for the SOJ's plans for the 2015 World Summer Games to be held in Los Angeles, United States.

"These National Games are a form of preparation and also to get official times for the athletes going into the [World Summer] Games. We have to get the times at a meet and not just in training."

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 Special Olympic World Winter Games in the Republic of Korea last year.

On Saturday, the SOJ also hosted an athletes' screening event free of cost. Check-ups were done on the eyes, ears, teeth, feet, as well as all-round health awareness was promoted.

Heron said it was a rewarding venture.

"Pairing it with the Healthy Athletes' Fair allowed them to go and do their health checks which augured well. That provided another side to what was on offer," he explained.

The Special Olympic International movement targets the breaking down of barriers that exclude people with intellectual disabilities from mainstream society.

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

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