SOJ commits to keeping athletes primed for competition despite pandemicMonday, May 17, 2021
BY SANJAY MYERS
DESPITE setbacks in preparation caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic, the hierarchy of Special Olympics Jamaica (SOJ) says it remains committed to keeping athletes primed for competition with an eye on the possibility of upcoming international events.
Last year the SOJ National Summer Games was not held amid government restrictions on sport events. However, as the country's daily virus cases appear to be trending down the SOJ executive director Roy Howell is optimistic the national showpiece could be staged late this year.
“We are still looking at the National Games, and, in fact, we are looking to have it sometime in about November. So that's our tentative time, and we are just hoping that there is improvement in Jamaica for us to stage it,” Howell told the Jamaica Observer during a telephone interview.
“The pandemic has set back our preparation and it has set back our programmes, but, of course, it's understandable because the pandemic is here and we just have to play our part. Once there is improvement and we get clearance from the Government we will press ahead with our activities,” he said.
Next on the global Special Olympics calendar are the rescheduled World Winter Games earmarked for Russia next year and the 2023 World Summer Games in Germany.
Jamaican teams have done well at past staging of both editions of the World Games, earning international acclaim along the way.
The SOJ boss said athletes are eager to be re-engaged in global competition.
“We still have events on the books but we are just watching to see how the situation is going to pan out before we say anything final. The challenges from the pandemic have not dampened the spirit. In fact, the athletes are anxious to compete,” Howell said.
He also emphasised that the coronavirus presents an acute threat to people with special needs because some of them have pre-existing health conditions and are among those most at risk.
“Our athletes are among the most vulnerable in this pandemic, so what we are doing is a lot of virtual activities. We know that a lot of them take public transportation and walk, so we don't want to expose them, especially the ones who might have a challenge in adhering to the protocols.
“Certain things are not within our control and we just have to be very careful because we don't want to expose the athletes. Right now the coordinators and coaches are doing what's within their power. We just want to take things in stride and see how best we can do things behind the scenes until we can go face to face again,” he told the Observer.
“Once we go face-to-face I think we will be in a good place because we are keeping up now through virtual programmes. Going virtual is, of course, a challenge because some of these athletes are less likely to be distracted and will also follow instructions better when you're face to face with them,” Howell added.
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.
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