WHILE praising athletes for their performance at the recent USA Games in Florida, Coleridge “Roy” Howell, the executive director of Special Olympics Jamaica (SOJ), gave a heartfelt shout-out to partners whom he felt gave steadfast support throughout the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The Jamaicans, among the 10 Caribbean delegations to compete at the June 5-11 USA Games, won 12 medals in three sporting disciplines.
“What they did was fantastic and beyond my expectations. Some of these athletes are so young — they were among the youngest of the competitors,” Howell told the Jamaica Observer at the end of the Games.
“And I can’t praise them without saying thanks to our partners Digicel, Sports Development Foundation (SDF), the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) and UNICEF,” he said.
Telecomunications firm Digicel is a long-time corporate partner of Special Olympics Jamaica, while the State-run SDF has provided extensive support for the movement. The LETR, one of the SOJ’s major fund-raising partners, and UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, have also played intregral roles over the years.
“These people stood with us right throughout the pandemic. When you look...Digicel during the downtime refurbished our multipurpose court so when we came back we could train and lay some foundation. And the SDF made sure that all our medical and other matters were taken care of,” Howell said.
At the USA Games, eight of Jamaica’s medals were won in athletics — three gold, four silver and a bronze — in addition to two (a gold and a silver) in bocce and another two (a gold and a bronze) in swimming.
“In all my travelling with the team, this is one of the most rewarding events. The effort put out by the athletes, bearing in mind these athletes only got face-to-face [training] three or four months ago because of the pandemic and [yet they] did so well. We had spent some time virtually but that would’ve been at the same level that they experienced at the USA Games.
“They were up against athletes who were in year-round training while we had downtime in which we weren’t able to do anything. So, it was rewarding to see the athletes’ response to the short-term training.
“I must say thanks to Lorna Bell who had an input in getting programmes from the Caribbean involved in the USA Games. And this augurs well for the development of programmes in the region,” the SOJ executive director explained.
Howell said the medals won on the track — guided by coaches Lori Scott-Moore and Akeem Clarke — were particularly pleasing.
“On the track there was so much expectation because Jamaican athletes have set a standard worldwide that’s so high. It’s like everyone felt we had to perform, and we did that,” he said.
The Special Olympics programme provides people with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to develop physical fitness, maintain healthy lives, and participate in the sharing of skills with other athletes.
Intellectual disabilities can either be acquired or genetic and can include cases of autism, cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome and traumatic brain injury.
— Sanjay Myers