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,
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,
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
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
persons with developmental disabilities. Many lives are touched
because of these opportunities.
And, by the way, volunteers are always needed. Call 544-9394.