Hundreds of athletes join National Special Olympics Summer Games

Athletes selected at the national games will represent the country at the 2023 Special Olympics World Games in Germany

| Text and Photos by Ihsaan Haffejee

Hotly contested netball finals between Limpopo and Western Cape provincial teams at the 2022 National Special Olympics South Africa Summer Games held in Polokwane from 17 to 19 November.

Hundreds of athletes from across the country gathered in Polokwane, Limpopo at the weekend to compete in this year’s National Special Olympics South Africa Summer Games.

Founded in 1991, Special Olympics South Africa provides sports training and competitions for adults and children with intellectual disabilities.

During the national games athletes competed against each other in athletics, aquatics, basketball, boccie, football, futsal, netball, table tennis and ten-pin bowling.

An athlete gets his eyes checked as part of the health screening at the national games.

Besides the action on the pitch at the Peter Mokaba Stadium during the three-day event, there was also a health screening and education campaign.

Competing athletes were screened by medical practitioners as part of the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes program. These screenings help to alert medical practitioners to identify potential health issues in the athletes and help to train medical professionals how to treat people with intellectual disabilities.

Special Olympics swimmers hit the water for races at the Pepps Polokwane Preparatory School and College’s swimming pool.

“Special Olympics as an organisation, focuses on athletes with an intellectual disability. Many of these athletes will never get an opportunity like this. Our special needs schools and centres are just not good enough to offer sporting competition that they deserve. And so, for these athletes, this is life changing,” says Special Olympics South Africa CEO Ancilla Smith.

Anelisa Maninjwa throws her steel ball during the shot-put competition.

“Many of them have never left their homes. They’ve travelled for the very first time to another province. They’re competing in a world class stadium with incredible facilities, which many of them have never been exposed to.”

The basketball team from KwaZulu-Natal celebrate after winning the tournament at the national games.

Athletes and teams selected at the national games will move on to represent the country at the 2023 Special Olympics World Games in Berlin, Germany.

“At the World Games we compete against 180 countries with over 7,000 athletes. So, it’s an incredible honour for these athletes to be chosen to represent South Africa,” says Smith.

The provincial team enters the stadium during the opening ceremony of the national Special Olympics. During the last Special Olympics Summer World Games in the United Arab Emirates in 2019, team SA returned with a total of 67 medals of which 35 were gold.

TOPICS:  Disability Rights Sport

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