Special Olympics will have a lasting impact
Karen Woollery, the national director of Special Olympics Bermuda, hailed the importance of the Special Olympics World Summer Games for an athlete’s progression, not only on the sporting stage, but off of it as well.
Bermuda will be sending a strong contingent of athletes to compete at the event, which is to be held in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, from March 14 to 22.
The team of 13 determined athletes will be competing in disciplines including athletics, tennis, boccia, bowling and equestrianism.
Special Olympic Bermuda’s main focus is on the wellbeing of the island’s learning disabled population through sport. The learning disabled population is often overlooked and excluded from sporting and social bodies and as a result the organisation is on a mission to start a “revolution of inclusion”.
“This will be a life-changing experience for these athletes,” said Woollery, speaking to The Royal Gazette at the National Stadium on Saturday. “Events such as this one can really open up their eyes to the possibilities they can achieve and what they can contribute to the community. It also shows people what these guys are able to do. It is not about disability but more so about ability.
“The Special Olympics is all about doing your best and for Bermuda it is a huge deal that we have a team heading over to compete.
“We are one of the smallest nations competing but we are going to make a massive impact.
“The athletes will be part of a host town programme and the community will adopt a team from each nation and show them their cultures and where they live. That will be an incredible experience for our athletes because they are getting to meet new people and experience new cultures.
“Hopefully they can make friends for life because these events are about so much more than just sport.
“Sport is an incredible platform and we hope to show these athletes the possibilities that are out there for them.
“In Bermuda there are a lot of preconceptions about learning disabilities but hopefully after this experience, the whole community will embrace these athletes and help them integrate into society a lot more.
“We are all the same and hopefully we can help show the wider community that is the case. Attending the Games is a major achievement for the athletes, who have worked tirelessly to meet the requirements needed to qualify, and their accomplishments should rightfully be celebrated and embraced by the nation.”
Anthony Smith, whose son Wayne will be competing in tenpin bowling, spoke of the positive impact of such an event on those attending.
“This is an incredible opportunity for all of these athletes from all around the world to get together and meet one another,” he added.
“Some of us could learn a thing or two from these adults and children because they are such loving people.
“Having all those nations come together as one big happy family is an incredible thing to see. I feel blessed that I’ll get the opportunity to witness that.
“I’m so proud that I’ll have the chance to see my son represent Bermuda; it’s an incredible opportunity.”