Jamaican special athletes win hearts of German people
BERLIN, Germany — Even before taking the field of play or marching onto the track, Special Olympics Jamaica (SOJ) athletes have already touched the hearts of people in the 2023 World Games host country.
During the Jamaicans’ brief stay in Heidelberg and visits to nearby Wiesloch and Schwetzingen, as part of the host town programme, they’ve won over admirers and made new friends due to their warm and fun-loving vibe.
The 21-year-old Kirk Wint, who starred as a teenager at previous Special Olympics Games in the United States (2015) and the United Arab Emirates (2019), is already making a mark in Germany.
Unable to walk on his own due to disabled lower limbs from birth, Wint races on all fours from a crouching position, and sensationally won silver in the 50m dash in the UAE.
Days ago he was given a wheelchair by Wiesloch-based restaurant owner Aleandro Giacalone.
Both SOJ Executive Director Coleridge “Roy” Howell and the Head of Delegation Gladstone Sealey welcomed the gift and underlined the kindness they have received from residents they have been in contact with since landing in Germany on Monday.
Tamina Kaiser, who said for eight years she has worked for an organisation that aids and supports people with intellectual disabilities, is one of those residents.
She was key in arranging the donation of the wheelchair and also facilitated a monetary contribution to assist the delegation with expenses during the Games.
“We saw Kirk when he came here and he was walking with his walker [walking-assistive device]. The next day I asked my colleagues if we have a spare wheelchair, and they prepared everything and got it for him,” she told the Jamaica Observer.
“Normally we would just lend it, but we met the owner of the Trattoria Italia restaurant, Aleandro Giacalone, and he helped us with the idea of donating the wheelchair.
“Aleandro met everyone, he loved everyone, and he thought he wanted to give back something… he gave the wheelchair and he also donated 1,100 euros towards Special Olympics Jamaica,” she recounted.
Kaiser said while she won’t make the trip north to support the SOJ athletes in Berlin due to work obligations, the bonds created — which already have her considering a visit to Jamaica — have compelled her to root for the Caribbean island.
“Everyone was so easy, everyone was so nice; we got to talking right away. It was very uncomplicated, very lovely, and everyone was witty and interested in each other. We talked about German culture and Jamaican life, so it was very interesting for me.
“Sadly, I will not be at the World Games but I’ll watch on TV. And I’ve already told my friends, ‘Sorry, I will not be in favour of the German team this time; I will cheer for Jamaica now,’ ” she quipped.
The Special Olympics World Games is to officially begin with the opening ceremony this evening, and is scheduled to end June 25.
The Jamaican contingent, comprising 47 athletes, is down to compete in athletics, women’s football (seven-a-side), men’s unified football (seven-a-side), swimming, badminton and unified volleyball.
Through sport activities and competition the Special Olympics movement aims to break down barriers that exclude people with intellectual disabilities, such as autism and Down’s syndrome, from mainstream society.
The disabilities can either be acquired or genetic and can also include cases of cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, and some cases of developmental delay.