Bermuda celebrates its Special Olympians
Bermuda’s Special Olympics heroes were celebrated yesterday with a motorcade and reception on the grounds of Cabinet.
The commemoration of the team’s haul of eight medals and nine placings in the Abu Dhabi Games started with a motorcade from the Arboretum in Devonshire and ended on Front Street, where they were congratulated by David Burt, the Premier.
Solay Thomas, who won a silver medal in softball throw, said: “It’s overwhelming. It was a lot of people cheering us on and I felt happy about it. I could feel the tears coming.”
Ms Thomas, 21, added: “This is my dream come true.”
Her mother, Latisha Lightbourne, said: “I am proud of her courage and bravery. She represented not only herself, but Bermuda.” Ms Lightbourne added: “I was not on the trip; she did well without me.”
Danielle Gibbons, also on the Bermuda team, said: “I feel wonderful. I am proud that I did something for my country.”
The games were the first time she had represented Bermuda.
Ms Gibbons said: “Thanks to everybody for coming and supporting us. I love you, Bermuda.”
Nathalie Dill, mother of Kirk Dill, who won bronze in the 100 metres and just missed a medal when he came fourth in the 200, was proud of his achievements.
Ms Dill said: “To be in that environment with children with intellectual disability, it was a humbling experience — seeing these children interacting and building relationships, just like everyone else.”
People who lined the streets for the motorcade were proud of the team’s effort.
Sonya Clarke, who waited for the motorcade on Church Street, said: “I’m elated — it’s an epic moment. They deserve this and more.”
Donna Raynor, president of the Bermuda National Athletics Association, was also among those who waved at the motorcade as it made its way through the city.
Ms Raynor said: “To see how well they have done, it’s awesome.”
She added that Bermuda had turned in outstanding performances in the Special Olympics and international football so it was a top moment for sport in the country.
Ms Raynor added: “We need to support all our athletes.”
Mr Burt told the athletes: “You have all made Bermuda extremely proud.”
He added: “You all earned your place with the world’s best and you excelled, proving that a tiny island in the middle of the Atlantic can produce world-class athletes of the highest calibre.”
The team, which competed against 7,500 athletes from 190 countries, won three silver and five bronze medals, as well as notching up nine placings.
Alicia Zuill, the chairwoman of Special Olympics Bermuda, said the country should do more for disabled athletes.
She added that a multifunctional building was needed to help the young men and women prepare for competition.
She said: “I am asking, please accept them. Help us, be there for us.
“Please stop leaving them out, they are a part of us. Stop treating them like they do not exist.”
The athletes were presented with certificates by Mr Burt and Lovitta Foggo, the Minister of Labour, Community Affairs and Sport.
The Special Olympics World Games were held from March 14 to 21.