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HPU Chaplain takes Special Olympics team to World Games in Ireland

by Rev. Dale Burke


The Special Olympic athlete’s oath is this: “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me brave in the attempt”. This theme was never more evident than at the Special Olympic World Games in Dublin, Ireland, June 20-30, 2003. The wonderful people of Ireland opened their arms and welcomed 7,500 athletes and coaches from 166 countries around the world to share in the spirit of athletic competition. Not everyone won a medal, but all were brave in the attempt and many friendships were forged.

It was a thrill to be a swim coach for Team USA, which fielded 1,200 athletes from all over the country, competing in all 20 of the events. Hawai‘i was represented by 12 swimmers and five track and field athletes who worked seven months preparing themselves to do their best.

Each country had a host city, and Team USA was hosted by Belfast, Northern Ireland for four days—which allowed team members to get acclimated to the local time and weather. The hospitality was outstanding, and the athletes were able to see the sights and get some training done.
Opening ceremonies took place at Croate Park in the center of Dublin, stadium jammed with 70,000 screaming supporters, and as each country was introduced the place erupted. Chicken skin! Opening speakers were Nelson Mandella, Eunice Shriver, and the president of Ireland. Other guests included Arnold Schwartz-enegger, Muhammad Ali, Pierce Brosnan, and a world-record number of River Dancers.

The Games began, and every day Hawai‘i’swimmers were greeted at the pool by more than 100 supporters as they arrived to compete. The cheers, the whole atmosphere really encouraged our athletes and each of the Hawai‘i swimmers won a medal in one of their events. The best part was seeing the athlete’s congratulate each other on the award’s stand when the medals were presented.
The last day of competition saw the Coach’s Relay for all coaches who wanted to swim. I couldn’t resist. I teamed up with my new coach friends from Team Aruba and Team Slovenia, and on to the blocks we went. (How did we do? You’ll have to ask me privately.)

Thanks to everyone for their support of Special Olympics and the many ways in which they make opportunities available to persons with developmental disabilities. Many lives are touched and changed because of these opportunities.

And, by the way, volunteers are always needed. Call 544-9394.



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