Why The Special Olympics Is About So Much More Than Winning Gold

The Special Olympics World Summer Games can proudly boast that they are this year’s largest sporting event.

The evidence comes from the nearly 200 nations represented by the 7,000 athletes competing in 26 sports this week in Berlin, Germany.

The Special Olympics is similar to the other members of the Olympic family in that it is a massive multi-sport event held across multiple venues in one of the world’s most prominent cities. However, it takes a unique approach to sport. Each contender here has a scholarly incapacity. In order to win, they will do anything. However, there is a greater and deeper sense of accomplishment.

The Special Olympics global movement’s chairman, Tim Shriver, said: We reward those who put in their best effort. We do not inquire about “who is the best?” – We inquire, “What’s your best?” And everyone can provide an answer to that.”

That way of thinking makes a climate of rivalry and opportunity.

Northampton’s Ellie-Bea Thomas is competing in gymnastics for Great Britain. Her first Special Olympics competition.

She stated to BBC Sport, “I was a little nervous at first.” However, I believe I am now ready for it. Gymnastics is incredible. When I was seven years old, I started. It’s amazing that you can just express any emotion through every single routine.

A procedure known as “divisioning” is used to begin the Special Olympics. Officials observe each participant to determine their level of skill. Then, they compete against others of a similar standard in an event. Medals are awarded at each event. The value of each event is the same.

I watched Thomas’ rhythmic gymnastics competition’s division stage. Suriname, Ecuador, the United Arab Emirates, and Uzbekistan were among the participants. Each of them carried out the routine that they had been practicing for months, putting all of their attention and frustration into making even the smallest errors. That is precisely exact thing you’d find in any donning rivalry.

Be that as it may, when this meeting finished, they filled the floor to do a dance routine together. Numerous coaches and some of the officials joined in. People with intellectual disabilities can be seen and appreciated in this setting.

Shriver added, “People with intellectual disabilities still face barriers in the world.” You are unable to see many of those walls. They are the barriers that are erected as a result of miscommunication, fear, and misperceptions about one’s worth. We’re here to let the world know. Berlin is now challenging the world to remove the invisible barriers that prevent us from welcoming one another, not just the physical Berlin wall.”

One Sheffield Special Olympian, Niall Guite, has spent the past few years tearing down walls. He began drawing it when sports became impossible during the Covid-19 pandemic.

His stadium art was shown at the Royal Academy in London due to its popularity. Even though he acknowledges that speaking is his greatest obstacle, he has spoken publicly about his life and started a business selling the pictures. He trains extensively on the road, on the track, and in a spare bedroom before joining the British cycling team in Berlin.

“I feel respected to be here,” he told BBC Game. ” It’s exciting but exhausting at the same time. Everyone has been wonderful. Everyone has been extremely welcoming and eager to meet you. It’s fantastic. Now that I have friends, my life is fun, and I get to be an artist and a cyclist, which is amazing.

The Special Olympics movement relies heavily on inclusion. In the Special Olympics’ terminology, mainstream athletes participate in some of the events as “unified partners.” It is anticipated that their sporting abilities will be comparable to those of the players with intellectual disabilities.

In the Berlin-based unified football competition, Great Britain has a team. I observed them train at a special session held at the Football Association’s St. George’s Park by the League Managers Association prior to their departure for the Games. Gareth Southgate, England manager, was a keen observer and informed me: I think that the concept that we all benefit from mixing with and learning from one another is very rich. I can see the team’s enthusiasm as well as the challenge. How can we collaborate? How can we collaborate effectively? That will, in my opinion, extend far beyond their interactions with the team and into their daily lives.”

One of the team’s players with intellectual disabilities is Essex native Jack Venturini. He described the experience of being in Berlin following the extravagant and colorful opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium. He is an excellent communicator on the field.

He stated, “It was the best experience ever because there are so many different countries here.” It is a privilege to represent my nation. It’s incredible to be here. I’m meeting new companions, encountering new societies. I’m truly getting a charge out of it. It has made me happier, more relaxed, and more self-assured.

That is the Special Olympics’ life-changing reward.

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