A total of 69 athletes travelled from all over the Lothian Special Olympics region to participate in this year’s Special Olympics GB’s National Summer Games, hosted in Sheffield from Monday 7th to Friday 12th August. The event saw a total of around 2600 athletes, 800 volunteer coaches, 1000+ volunteers and 150 officials from across the United Kingdom descend on the city of steel for the country’s largest multi-sport event of 2017. There were also around 50 broadcasters over the 20 sports offered.
The Summer Games, held every 4 years, invites athletes with intellectual disabilities of all sporting abilities to participate and compete in a wide range of sports including athletics, swimming, football and judo. In total, there were 69 athletes and 31 coaches & volunteers who represented Lothian across 10 of the 20 sports offered during this year’s games. Athletes participated superbly throughout whilst claiming 25 gold, 11 silver and 13 bronze medals and a host of 4th-8th place ribbons.
Notable achievements for the Lothian athletes included the success of the Boccia squad. The all-female Lothian squad achieved considerable success claiming gold and silver medals in both the singles and pairs competitions whilst swimming, judo and badminton yielded a number of medals for experienced athletes as well individuals participating for the first time. One athlete travelling to Sheffield for his first games experience was swimmer Callum Todd with the Fauldhouse Penguins club member securing medals in the Individual Medley (Bronze) as well as the 100m Backstroke (Gold). Badminton made a welcome return after a hiatus and Ten Pin Bowling was included for the first time and athletes from the East of Scotland didn’t disappoint, with Michael McCraw (Badminton, Male Singles) claiming gold while team mates Daniel Strand and Jenni Gray finished 4th and 5th place respectively. All sports were played in great spirits with fair play and professionalism at the forefront throughout, reflected by the officials overseeing the events as rules and regulations were strictly adhered to. This ensured a level playing field for all athletes and players but also helped produce an extremely high level of performance, demonstrated by some of the times, distances and scores recorded over the week.
The week also incorporated the work that is being done throughout the East of Scotland in relation to the Play Unified Project, allowing school students from schools in the Lothian area to travel to Sheffield and be part of the Games. The Play Unified project encourages schools to develop and deliver projects that provide an opportunity for mainstream school pupils to work alongside youngsters with a learning disability.
The Games is the culmination of months of training, commitment and dedication for the athletes and coaches involved and provides the pinnacle for many in terms of sporting achievements. There is also a vast amount of work behind the scenes leading into the Games through the significant fundraising efforts which is essential in contributing towards kit, travel, and accommodation costs for the team of over 100 people. Lothian Head of Delegation (HOD), Lynne Sturgeon, was key to the whole journey, overseeing and supporting athletes and coaches from all sports while coordinating the Games in the lead up and throughput the 6 day event. Lynne states “It was amazing, the attitude and respect the Lothian athletes showed throughput the games. The weekly dedication of the voluntary coaches and admin volunteers who create the training opportunities in the Lothians was repaid superbly by the athletes. Without these volunteers the athletes would not have these opportunities to excel on and off the sports field.”
The event provides the platform for individuals to showcase their sporting talents, regardless of the level at which they compete, but also provides an opportunity to form relationships with their peers during a week that is packed from start to finish with competition, recreational activities, social opportunities and much more. The week began with an all singing, all dancing opening ceremony and finished with a party evening with far more in between including a Q&A session with current England Head Coach Gareth Southgate. This highlights the ever increasing profile of the SOGB National Games and the value it holds for participants as they build lifelong relationships, increase their confidence and achieve personal goals throughout the 6 day event.
If you are interested in learning more about the Games please follow the link below. Additionally, if you would like to find out more about local opportunities associated to the Special Olympics, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.lothianspecialolympics.org.
What is next?
Special Olympics GB 40th Anniversary games hosted by Special Olympics Scotland to be held in Stirling 9 to 13th August 2018 – further information to follow.