A team from Belize returned home boasting silver medals that they won at the Special Olympics recently held in Los Angeles, California, USA. Love News was among several groups that were at the Philip Goldson International Airport to welcome them home. We spoke with Elodia Bautista, head of the Belize delegation.
“It was a first time experience for them, they had no knowledge of what to expect or what to do. Even for myself it was a first time and our coach. When they got there they were surprised at the hospitality of our Belizean community in Los Angeles and of the host village that hosted us for the first few days. So they enjoyed that and the first few days at the host village and then when we moved to the University they started their competition and they competed and they won silver medals. They played Bocce and they played as a team and then they played as doubles.”
“Now, I don’t know what bocce is and I know a lot of people don’t know what it is, could you explain to us?”
“Bocce is an Italian sport whereby a small little ball is thrown in the center of the frame and then a bocce ball which weighs about three pounds is thrown to reach the smaller ball. The ball that reaches closest to the little ball gets the point and we did this sport because it is easy not only that but it provides for different disabilities to be able to play. Children in wheelchairs can play, children with cerebral palsy can play the game and so then they are able to participate and show their ability in sports.”
Also there awaiting the children was the Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, Patrick Faber, who unfortunately was unable to greet the delegation as the flight was delayed for about an hour and a half.
“Well I’m happy to be here to welcome the athletes back. However as you’ve heard we’ve had a delay and so I am not able to greet them. I’m terribly late for Cabinet but I wanted to be here to share in the celebration of their accomplishments and of course as Minister of Education, Youth and Sports it is important for me to encourage the wider Belizean population to be supportive of our young people with special needs but in general our citizens with special needs. They are capable in many ways that we don’t acknowledge many times. They are able to do a lot of things that regular active folks can do and this is proof of that, this is an occasion where we can highlight them and celebrate them and so I am absolutely happy to be here along with the Special Envoy for Women and Children and all the other folks who have come to welcome them home this morning, we are very very proud of them.”
Bringing out the fanfare, banners and drums at the airport was the Special Envoy for Women and Children, Kim Simplis Barrow.
KIM SIMPLIS BARROW
“We are here to welcome them back to Belize in a proper manner because they represented Belize on a world stage, there were 167 countries represented at the world games and we can’t be prouder. It’s very important; as you all know Special Olympics is an organization that dedicates itself to the activity of sporting and it gets children with intellectual disabilities to participate in these sporting events and in different categories, it could be tennis, swimming, weight lifting all different types of sports and so for these athletes to practice year round and to go and to participate in a competition like this on a world stage it’s very important for our children with disabilities to see this and for us to recognize that they can do it, we all can do it and they are an inspiration. The manner in which they carried themselves, their performances were amazing. My husband and I were there for the opening of the World Games and it was just great to see our athletes walk out with their Belize flags so proud and determined to make their country proud.”
With an accomplishment of silver medals and a boost of enthusiasm from this novel experience, Love News asked Bautista, who is the National Director for the Special Olympics in Belize, what is next for these children with disabilities.
“We want to expand the bocce to include other children in the regular school because all of them can participate. We want to expand our districts in getting more coaches and we also want to introduce other sports like hand ball, so it’s an easier sport and introduce other sports so that they are able to participate and have more medals and goals if possible.”
The two athletes who participated in the 2015 Special Olympics in the USA were Jasmine Flores and Ana Emanuel. They were partnered with Jana Locke and Ilda Romero.