SOJ heroes, heroines back home after UAE exploits

Senior staff reporter

Monday, March 25, 2019

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The Jamaica delegation represented an assembly of heroes and heroines after returning yesterday from their history-making sojourn to the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games in the United Arab Emirates.

Across eight sporting disciplines at venues in Dubai and the capital Abu Dhabi, the Special Olympics Jamaica (SOJ) team accounted for 33 medals, beating their previous best of 29 which was achieved four years ago in the United States.

Roy Howell, the SOJ sports programme director, says the accomplishment is a reflection of the behind-the-scenes work put in at the administrative and coaching levels, as well the heart and determination by the athletes.

“The success is a show of what we put in place over the last three years,” Howell told the Jamaica Observer.

“Over the last three years we put in a lot of effort into getting senior coaches to guide the teams. The result is not a surprise — we could see this coming from a long time.”

Athletics — with a haul of 15 — had the greatest number of medals; aquatics and roller skating had four each; bocce won three; badminton won two; male and female football teams took home one each; male and female volleyball garnered one each; while basketball team claimed another.

“It was a great effort by the athletes. And I have to congratulate all the coaches and the managers for all the disciplines. They worked tirelessly to put things in place, they took their training seriously, they went on camps and tried things in different areas to find ways they can improve their game. That's the reason there were these results—from day one they were all ready to go,” he reiterated.

“Although you feel confident going into the games when you see the high level of performances from some of the other teams, it can be a reality check. It makes you have to dig deep to make sure that the achievement matches what you prepared for. You don't want to get too laid back and take things for granted. You want to put things in place, so you can achieve your goals.” Howell told the Observer.

Through sport activities and competition, the Special Olympics Games, which began in 1968, focuses on breaking down barriers that exclude people with intellectual disabilities from mainstream society.

The most common syndromes associated with intellectual disability include autism and Down syndrome.

SOJ had over 70 athletes competing at the 2019 World Games, which ran from March 14-21.

Jamaican teams have also enjoyed success at the winter edition of the Special Olympics, most recently in Austria in 2017, and before that in South Korea in 2013.

Scandinavian country, Sweden is earmarked to stage the next World Winter Games in 2021.

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