In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics movement, the 2019 Special Olympics Ontario Invitational Youth Games saw more than 2,000 student-athletes from around the world. For the first time, high school-aged athletes with an intellectual disability had the chance to compete in an international sports competition. The games were held in Toronto from May 14 to 17, 2019.
"A lot of students have never experienced competitive sport on a national stage before and we hope that this will give them a long-lasting impression of what it means to be an athlete, healthy, and continue to be involved with the Special Olympics throughout their lives," says Kelly Breitner, special education teacher at TL Kennedy.
Athlete's Oath: Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.
Four students from TL Kennedy Secondary School competed in track and field at the Youth Games. Each of the students took home medals, including a Gold and Bronze medal in the 4kg shot-put event, and a Silver and Bronze medal in the 100-metre event.
"It's not about winning. It's about the experience," says Sue Tibensky, special education teacher at TL Kennedy. "It doesn't matter if you're an individual with special needs or not—you're just like everyone else. We want to ensure that all students have the same opportunities and are recognized for their amazing accomplishments."
It's not about winning. It's about the experience.
The athletes, both with and without an intellectual disability, competed in athletics, basketball, bocce, floor hockey and/or soccer. All sports offered two types of team divisions. A traditional division, where all athletes on the team have an intellectual disability, and a unified division, where athletes with and without an intellectual disability had the opportunity to compete on the same team. Unified sport provides a unique opportunity for students with an intellectual disability to compete alongside their mainstream peers. All athletes are of similar ability level in their sport and therefore are able to contribute equally as a team.
Building off of the successful school championships program offered in Ontario since the 2011-12 school year, the Youth Games act as a great opportunity to showcase the power of age-appropriate and unified competition opportunities for our youth athletes.
If you or a loved one are interested in joining Special Olympics' community or competitive programs in the Peel region, learn more here: www.specialolympics.ca/participate.
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