The four young women representing Belize at the 14th biennial Summer Special Olympics World Games concluded over the weekend in Los Angeles, California, returned home today with very special medals. Ana Emmanuel, Jasmine Flores, Jayna Locke and Ilda Romero placed second in the unified team category in the world’s third largest participant sport – bocce. What is bocce, you ask? It is an Italian game where a special ball is rolled closest to the target ball, which is called a pallino. At the end of each frame (when both teams have exhausted all balls), points are awarded to the team whose balls are closer to the pallino than the closest ball of the opposing team. With that explanation out of the way we introduce you to two of the participants. Ilda Romero shares her experience representing the Jewel in L.A.
“It felt good because I am representing my country and it is better than not being here…you miss it but you are showing the whole world that you are from here. It is good that you are winning second place and you will play again in the next four years.”
“What advice would you have for other athletes who would want to go in the next four years and represent Belize?”
“Don’t be ashamed and just try your best.”
Team leader Jasmine Flores spoke to us about her motivational techniques for her teammates.
“I worked hard, practiced every day, enjoyed myself so Belize came in second.
“What advice would you have for your teammates and others who don’t want to or are afraid to be a part of the Special Olympics, what advice do you have for them?”
“You can contact me and they can ask the coach. I enjoyed myself.”
The girls also did well in individual competitions. Flores and Romero teamed up for second-place in the unified doubles category and Flores and Emmanuel finished fourth in their division in the singles events. Special Envoy for Women and Children Kim Simplis Barrow and Prime Minister Dean Barrow were on hand for the opening in Los Angeles and Mrs. Simplis-Barrow spoke about the significance of this breakthrough victory.
“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 can be tennis, swimming, weightlifting, all different types of sports. And so for thee athletes to practice year round and to go and to participate in the competition like this on a world’s stage, it’s very important for our children with disabilities to see this and to recognize that they can do it, we call can do it. They are an inspiration, really. The manner in which they carry themselves, their performances, it was amazing. We, 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 flag, so proud and so determined to make their country proud.”
Also on hand at the airport was Minister of Education, Youth and Sports Hon. Patrick Faber.
“We take for granted our special needs students, our special needs citizens and we believe that they can’t do certain things. So when they accomplish at this level, it is a wonderful celebration every time. So, I made it my business to be here this morning – I am terribly late for Cabinet but we wanted to make sure that we are here when they get off the plane. Unfortunately there has been a delay so I still won’t get to see them, but that is regrettable. I hope that they get the message that I was here to welcome them home and I am so very proud of their achievements as all Belizeans should be.”
The medalists were hosted at a luncheon at the Inspiration Center later in the day.