Athletics

Special Olympians settling nicely in UAE

BY SANJAY MYERS
Senior staff reporter
myerss@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

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Coleridge “Roy” Howell, the sports programme director for Special Olympics Jamaica (SOJ), says the delegation to the World Summer Games in United Arab Emirates (UAE) is already settling down in that Middle Eastern country.

Upon arrival in the UAE last Friday, members of the Jamaica Middle East Diaspora were on hand to greet the contingent at Dubai International Airport.

The diaspora group had also feted the athletes and team officials at a reception, delivering Jamaican hospitality, food and music.

“The food was excellent [and] the music was excellent. It was like the athletes never left home; they felt like they were at home and it was as if the people went overboard to entertain them,” Howell told the Jamaica Observer Sunday.

“You could see the glee and happiness on the face of the athletes. They enjoyed themselves, they ate, danced and mixed with the people. They were welcomed with open arms and they were all enthused about the entire experience.

“The Jamaicans there encouraged the athletes to do well and to be ambassadors for Jamaica. It was a great moment and I have never seen this before. It was such a big thing… it was a memorable afternoon,” he said.

The Jamaicans have been based in the city of Al Ain for the host town programme until the official start of the Special Olympics Abu Dhabi Games on March 14.

During the host town programme they have been exposed to local customs and culture, while participating in the drive to spread awareness of intellectual disabilities and promoting the Special Olympics spirit.

The programme also allows teams to train and become familiar with their new environment before competition begins.

The SOJ contingent is numbered at 98 — comprising 73 athletes, 22 coaches, two officials and a medical representative.

The Jamaicans are set to compete in athletics, bocce, roller skating, swimming, unified badminton, unified basketball, unified football (men's and women's teams), and unified volleyball (men's and women's teams).

Howell says preparation has gone on in earnest despite the activities away from competition.

“Things are going well, so far. I have responsibility for all the sports; to secure the training facilities, ensure everything is going well, and to work with the coaches to ensure all the athletes get the proper nutrition, [and] physical and medical [assessment].

“The first evening we laid back as lot of people were tired and jet lagged. This morning we did some stretches and went to the gym and around the complex to exercise and loosen up,” Howell explained.

The Jamaicans won 29 medals at the 2015 Summer Games in Los Angeles, United States. They also left indelible marks at respective Winter Games in South Korea in 2013 and in Austria two years ago.

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

Unified competition provides athletes with intellectual disabilities the chance to compete alongside and against those without disabilities.


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