Games builds on Special Olympics glory
The island’s athletes with intellectual disabilities were given the “chance to shine” at the annual CedarBridge Academy Invitational Games.
Building on the success of the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi, in which the island’s athletes won eight medals and had nine placings, athletes from across the nation were out in force competing in the track and field event.
The Games were for intellectually and physically challenged individuals, catering for schoolchildren of all ages to extended care facilities that have no boundaries on age.
Ricky Watts, director of sport for Special Olympics Bermuda and the meet director, spoke of his pride of the continued growth of the event and its importance to the island’s athletes with disabilities.
“We’ve been doing this for 14 years and reach out to all school ages as well as outside agencies and invite them down to come out and enjoy their day and have a good time,” he said.
“It’s really important. What we do is give this community the base to grow and also show families with a disabled relative that there is an outlet and somewhere to go that they can come out engage themselves in sport and with a wider community, that is what it is all about.
“Special Olympics is about caring for people and giving them the same opportunities as anyone else. This is one event that is a great opportunity for our athletes to come out and get the praise they deserve and show exactly what they can do.
“By giving these athletes more opportunities, you’re giving them a chance to shine and this is definitely their time to shine. Running these events always gives me a special feeling and it always feels incredible to see these athletes getting the recognition that they should.
“We are giving anyone on island with a disability the opportunity be at the top and on that podium and feel they have accomplished something for themselves.
“The Special Olympics World Games allowed me to see that on a world stage and that has pushed me even more to bring that back to Bermuda and build on that special event and make this one bigger and better.”
Having overseen the event for more than a decade, Watts revealed that he had seen a positive shift in terms of the subject of people with disabilities and the greater inclusion within the wider community.
“We started off in the corner of the National Stadium and had to rush to get finished before schools sports day,” Watts said.
“All of a sudden, we went from 20 or so participants from two schools to more than 138 from schools across the island.
“Now we have our own day and that recognition has really picked up.
“It needs something to kick-start the process and then everything falls into place.
“There are a number of the World Games athletes here competing and you can see them walking around with their chests puffed out because they are proud of themselves.
“They have reached a point where they feel good about themselves and their self-esteem is through the roof. That is the point of days like this because they have achieved something they are proud of.”
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