Dream chasers
Jamaicans eager for more success at Special Olympics World Games
(From left) Special Olympics Jamaica (SOJ) Executive Director Coleridge Howell, SOJ athletes' coordinator Ann Marie Anderson, SOJ swimmer Tasheanna Bailey, track star and Digicel Brand Ambassador Briana Williams, and Digicel Jamaica Chief Marketing Officer Tari Lovell pose with a symbolic sponsorship cheque at the Digicel headquarters in Kingston on Wednesday. SOJ athletes are set to compete at the 2023 World Summer Games in Berlin, Germany, later this month. (Photo: Collin Reid)

Coleridge "Roy" Howell, the executive director of Special Olympics Jamaica (SOJ), says the delegation to the 2023 Summer Games in Berlin, Germany, is primed for even greater historic achievements on the world stage.

The Jamaicans, who have been outstanding at previous editions of the Special Olympics World Games, are scheduled to depart the island on Sunday ahead of the June 17-25 global showpiece.

"We're going there to have a blast and to make the country proud," he told the Jamaica Observer during a presentation ceremony and cheque handover hosted by main sponsor Digicel in Kingston on Wednesday.

Telecommunication giant Digicel, long-time supporter of Special Olympics Jamaica, committed US$40,000 to cover airfare for the delegation to the Berlin Games.

"I know the athletes are excited and looking forward to this. I thank Digicel for the support, it has given us impetus going into the Games. We'll be carrying Digicel on our backs and competing to make Jamaica proud," Howell said.

At the Berlin 2023 Games, the Jamaicans are down to compete in track and field, swimming, badminton, unified men's football and women's football, and unified volleyball.

Jamaica won a record 33 medals at the 2019 World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, after tallying 29 at the 2015 global event in Los Angeles, United States.

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.

Elon Parkinson, head of communications and corporate affairs at Digicel, said the continued partnership underlines the company's commitment to the Special Olympics movement.

"Our Special Olympians carry more than just their personal zeal to achieve, they carry the hopes and dreams of a nation to Berlin in the next couple of days. It's a pursuit that they've been carrying out for years and it's one that the foundation is particularly proud of supporting, primarily because of how deep-rooted we are with Jamaica's special needs community," he said.

"It [the partnership] is not just from an investment standpoint, it's from an awareness standpoint. We want to continue to raise awareness — we've been doing it for many years now — and we will continue just to ensure Jamaicans appreciate that people of all types of abilities are able to contribute to the sporting success of the country," Parkinson explained.

Digicel Foundation Chief Executive Officer Charmaine Daniels, who said she will be in the stands cheering on the Jamaican athletes, noted that their participation goes beyond challenging for medals.

"It's very rewarding for us, we love to see them grow and see their confidence grow and we look forward to great things in Berlin. It's not just about the gold or the silver, it's being proud of being an ambassador for your country," she told the Observer.

"When Digicel Foundation was formed the first pillar was special needs and that comes from our patron Denis O'Brien's love for Special Olympics. Our commitment to Special Olympics remains every year… for training, equipment, anything they would need," she added.

Sanjay Myers

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