Jubilant special athletes compete at National Games

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Special Olympics athletes compete in a race at the Digicel National Games on Saturday at the Manny Ramjohn Stadium, Marabella, Saturday. –


BREAKING barriers and shattering stereotypes, the Special Olympics National Games officially returned on Saturday, at the Manny Ramjohn Stadium in Marabella. The games, supported by the Digicel Foundation, had not been held for the past three years owing to the covid19 pandemic.

Special athletes were celebrated and cheered as they competed on Saturday, demonstrating their speed, strength and determination. According to the TT Special Olympics’ social media, the games serve to show the world that there is no limit to what special athletes can achieve when there is togetherness, respect and inclusion for all.

The opening ceremony involved athletes from several schools and vocational institutions including the Lady Hochoy Vocational Centre, Pointe-a-Pierre Government Special School, Servol Special School, St Ann’s Hospital, Tobago Technical Vocational School and Wharton Patrick Special School.

In an interview with Newsday, National Director of Special Olympics TT Ferdinand Bibby praised the courage and the quality of the athletes. He said, “We all hear the buzzwords: sport for the development. That was the foundation for the Special Olympics.

“Sport is used as a developmental tool for persons with intellectual disabilities who, because of stigmatisation and marginalisation, were prevented from actively participating among the regular community.”

He said sport helps special athletes become better versions of themselves.

“We also use sport to teach the athletes how they can develop their functional limitations, their coping skills and their adaptive skills. Through their involvement in sport, like any other sportsperson, they gain confidence. The more they succeed, the more confident they become. That is then used to express themselves and for them to live well in their daily lives.”

He said the absence of the games due to the pandemic hurt the special athletes. “The special community is most susceptible to non-communicable diseases, especially due to inactivity. So this (games) is an opportunity for them to get back out and do what they do best.”

Following the Special Olympics National Games, selected athletes will represent TT at the 2023 Special Olympics World Games in Berlin, from June 17-25, as 7,000 special athletes from 170 countries compete on the globe’s greatest stage.

Bibby said everyone is looking forward to the international competition, especially considering TT’s success at past World Games.

“Our athletes have always represented the country well. I’m expecting the same this year. Right now, they are preparing, working hard and trying to get things right.”

Special athlete Akil Alcia, centre, passes the torch to Assistant Director, Physical Education and Sport in the Ministry of Sports and Community Development Patrice Charles during the opening ceremony of the Digicel Special Olympics National Games at the Manny Ramjohn Stadium, Marabella, Saturday. – AYANNA KINSALE

He highlighted Shania Surajbally, who has been excelling in the pool as a competitive swimmer. “She is one of our great female swimmers and, with her experience, we expect that she will continue to do well.”

Prior to the opening ceremony, the Special Olympics had already begun on the basketball court on May 6 at the Southern Regional Indoor Sports Arena in Pleasantville.

On Saturday, athletics and powerlifting took centre stage. Runners stormed the Manny Ramjohn Stadium track in speedy fashion as special athletes young and old competed for a place on the podium.

Later in the day, the powerlifting competition was held at D’Dial Fitness Centre in St James.

The Special Olympics will continue on May 18 as the Tobago athletes will have their opportunity to shine at the Shaw Park Recreational Facility. Action is scheduled to begin at 9am and conclude at 4:30pm.

The Manny Ramjohn Stadium will then host the bocce athletes on May 20, which will be followed by volleyball at the Southern Regional Indoor Sports Arena and equestrian at the Mounted Branch, St James, on May 21.

The Games will be concluded with swimming at the Diego Martin Swimming Pool and football at St Mary’s Ground on May 27. Its closing ceremony will then be held after the day’s football matches, scheduled for 4:30pm.