Special Olympics athletes keep improving, say coaches

Senior staff reporter

Friday, February 15, 2019

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Special Olympics Jamaica (SOJ) badminton team coach Terry Walker says the improvement noticed in training sessions has given reason for hope ahead of the World Summer Games in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) next month.

“You can feel the progress in the short space of time they are playing together,” Walker said in reference to the team which comprises Special Olympics athlete Janoy Daley and unified partner Travis Ebanks.

“We are fine-tuning, letting them know the little things to expect while they are there and just to let them understand the rules,” she added.

Daley, who won badminton singles silver medal at the 2015 Special Olympics Games in Los Angeles, is based in Manchester where he trains during the week.

Ebanks, a para-athlete who has a deformed right hand, practises in the corporate area where both meet for doubles training on Saturdays.

In the UAE, Daley is to participate in singles and doubles competitions, with Ebanks joining him for the latter.

“It has been fulfilling in the sense that while one is familiar with the sport, the other, Travis, is just learning — he is only playing for a year. They both have the eagerness to do well and they get along well with each other,” Walker, who is the first vice-president of the Jamaica Badminton Association, told the Jamaica Observer on Tuesday.

The track and field team is also bubbling ahead of the March 14-21 World Games.

Andre Johnstone, the track and field head coach, recently told journalists that preparation was in full swing, with very positive results on the cards.

“I really have great expectations; they have been training hard and they are really committed athletes,” he said.

SOJ is to send a 98-member party — comprising 73 athletes, 22 coaches, two officials and a medical representative — to the 2019 Abu Dhabi Games.

Track and field and unified badminton aside, the Jamaicans are down to compete in bocce, roller skating, swimming, unified basketball, unified football (men's and women's teams), and unified volleyball (men's and women's teams).

The Jamaican team raked in 29 medals at the 2015 Summer Games in the United States. They were also a huge hit at respective Winter Games in South Korea in 2013 and in Austria in 2017.

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

Intellectual disabilities can either be acquired or genetic, and can include cases of cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, autism, and traumatic brain injury.

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

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