Special Olympics serve as trials for World Games in Berlin

Maca Masi (left) from Ra competes with other athletes in the 100m event during the Special Olympics at Natabua High School grounds in Lautoka. Picture BALJEET SINGH

The Special Olympics National Talent Identification Games in Lautoka yesterday served as the initial trials for the 2023 Special Olympics World Games in Berlin, Germany.

Special athletes from as far as Rabi, Labasa and Ovalau participated in the event.

Ministry of Youth and Sports permanent secretary Rovereto Nayacalevu, who was the chief guest for the event, said the positive impact of sports at the national games such as this provided an opportunity to unite athletes from the special and inclusive schools.

“I understand training the athletes have gone through like burning the sand dunes in Sigatoka and swimming in the seas around Ovalau,” Nayacalevu said.

“I thank the co-ordinators for organising the event and giving recognition to all participants.

“One of the aims of this tournament is to give awareness to the community in regards to the existence of special and inclusive schools.

“This is to advocate for disabled children with special needs and develop the social skills of these children.

“To provide an opportunity for the children to travel and enjoy themselves in a different environment away from home.

“Fiji has done well at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England and I would like to encourage these athletes to make Fiji proud someday.

“The Special Olympics World Games is set to take place next year in Berlin, Germany. We need to prepare our athletes and this talent identification games is targeted at athletics, badminton, powerlifting, table tennis and swimming.

“Today, the idea is for athletes with special needs to be able to participate in sport and physical activity.”

Nayacalevu said in many countries, opportunities existed at the grassroots level through to the elite competition for people with disability to showcase their ability in sports and physical activity.

“However, this is not uniform around the world,” he said.

“While there has been positive and progressive change around the world with the quality of life for people with disabilities, often this progress is not reflected in the developing countries.

“People with disabilities in developing countries face major barriers which limit their independence as well as access to participation in sport and physical activity.”

Special Olympics Fiji director Robin Dayal says they try to create a better world by fostering the acceptance and inclusion of all people.

“The Special Olympics has many programs which can benefit teachers, parents and students with special needs,” Dayal said.

“They include a young athletes’ program between the ages of two to seven years. Athlete leadership, family support network, healthy athletes, family health forum, youth activation and unified sports in 28 Olympic type sports.

“Through sports we try to change the lives of this neglected group.

“Our National Talent Identification Games aims to bring out the sporting talents and develop lifelong skills of our athletes around Fiji.”

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