World Games kicks off in Abu Dhabi, with 105 Australian athletes competing
Last night’s Special Olympics World Games Opening Ceremony boasted a crowd of 40,000 people.
The World Games are the international sporting competition for people with intellectual disabilities. This year, Australia will be represented by 105 athletes who will compete across 11 sports including athletics, basketball, bocce, bowling, equestrian, soccer, golf, gymnastics, sailing, swimming and tennis. They join over 7,500 athletes from across the world.
Sandy is from New South Wales, and has been swimming since she was four years old. She’ll be competing in a 1600 metre open water swim this year. “Yeah, well, it’s a really short distance compared to a 5k swim!” she says.
Sandy has been swimming long distance in the ocean for a couple of years. She’s taken part in pool competitions in Athens and Los Angeles. This is her third World Games. “I just wanna do my best,” she says.
Lleyton Lloyd will be competing in athletics, including the 100-metre spring and long jump. He says what he likes about being in the athletics team is meeting new people and going to new places. This is his first World Games.
“It is a bit of work,” he says. “I train three days a week and a gym program.” He’s been training in this program since 2016, and commitment is key!
“I have to travel about an hour to get to the nearest athletics track,” says Lloyd. “I train with a Paralympian.”
Special Olympics Australia gives you the opportunity this year to send a ‘Herogram’ to cheer on a competing athlete. Write and send a Herogram via the Special Olympics Australia website.
Australia’s 2019 team is supported by 35 volunteer officials. Special Olympics Australia volunteers also operate throughout the year, creating accessible sports training, coaching and competition opportunities that are offered on a weekly basis in local communities throughout Australia.
James, an assistant coach for athletics, says starting inclusive sports at a young age is crucial. “I think we need to get sporting clubs and sporting teams involved in schools,” he says. “It’s pretty important to try to engage sporting because it helps [young people with disability] empower themselves through sport and I think it’s a great way to encourage people with health, fitness and friendships.”
“It can be anything from jumping on a trampoline. I mean that’s fun, it’s athletic and who doesn’t like jumping on a trampoline!?”
The 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games will run from 14 to 21 March 2019. Find more information here!
*Images courtesy of Special Olympics Australia