THIRTY-ONE competitors from as young as 15 donned the red, white and black, and proudly waved the TT flag as they joined thousands of special athletes from around the world when the curtains opened yesterday to formally start the 15th Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Special Olympics TT's (SOTT) athletes are all set to compete in five sports: athletics, bocce, equestrian, power lifting and swimming.
Although there were preliminary events in several sports for the past two days, the event officially began after the opening ceremony, a spectacle which featured an air show put on by Etihad Airways and live performances appreciated by thousands of fans at the Zayed Sports City Stadium.
In total, approximately 7,500 athletes will challenge 24 Olympic-style sports in nine venues in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, UAE. The closing ceremony is March 21.
Several of SOTT's athletes will compete in at least two unrelated sport, such as seventeen-year-old Sapphire Jackson, who already featured in the 100m walk preliminaries, finishing third in her heat (1:14.98) and is also scheduled to challenge the softball throw.
Israel Malik Duncan, 15, similarly challenged the 50m run preliminaries and clocked 14.91 to finish third in his heat, as well as the men's softball throw, on Wednesday, in which he recorded an effort of 23.61m.
SOTT has a bocce team comprising, Alicia Khan, Bernard Singh, Gary James-Boodoo and Shanice Baptiste, along with Kenrick Baksh and Michaellene Hosein, the latter two of whom will join the special athletes for the Unified Sports Team bocce event.
Unified Sports is a feature of the Special Olympics, which groups athletes with and without intellectual disabilities together on the same team to compete.
Aaron Ali, 18, Aaliyah Harrigin, 15, Jamella Bart, 32, Kellie Simmons, 26, Omari Patterson, 15, and Romaldo Stafford will represent SOTT in equestrian events, while Damien Marquis, 38, Janet Davis, 43, Kadafie Anthony, 35, Kadeem Brown 21, will compete in power lifting.
SOTT's swimmers include Donovan Garib, 16, Jaleel Pierre, 20, Melissa Nanan, 21, Nadira Mohan, 16, Nikoli Lalla, 21, Shania Surujbally, 19, Stefan Singh, 28, and Trent Bethel, 18.
Representing SOTT in athletics are: Jackson, Donald Doyle, 25, Jonathan Walker, 22, Providence, 25, La Toya Charles, 28, and Tershana Tempro, 17.