Australian sailors brought home gold and silver at the Special Olympics World Games, held July 25 – Aug. 2 in Los Angeles.
Aussie sailors won three gold medals and three silver medals at the games for people with intellectual disabilities. Overall, 177 countries competed, with 7,000 athletes competing in 26 sports.
The entire Australian team did well, with 76 athletes competing in 12 sports. Eight were in the sailing event that included two members without disabilities. There were also 29 volunteers from Australia helping with the team.
The Special Olympics are one of the world's largest sporting events considering the number of athletes involved from around the world.
The training and work does not begin and with the Olympic games, however. There is weekly training throughout the year for people with intellectual disabilities.
Coaches for the Australian team are Chris Rustin and assistant coach Ashleigh Skopp, both from Queensland.
Winning is fun, but that is not the primary purpose of Special Olympics. Some athletes are focused on winning medals, but learning to win and lose is part of the overall experience. Some athletes participate just for the enjoyment of participating. The program itself provides training regardless of the reason the athletes are competing.
The program provides an environment where people are accepted and can feel good about themselves.
In this program people with intellectual disabilities develop skills that improve health and they develop self-confidence, which spills over into every aspect of their lives.
The nation's team won twenty-three gold medals, nineteen silver and eighteen bronze medals. The team also won twenty-two ribbons for placing fourth through eighth.
Here are the individual medal winners in sailing from Australia:
Silver level 1 unified – (Southport Yacht Club and Gold Coast Sailing Club Limited, QLD) Greg Williams and Sonja Gilmore
Silver level 2 unified -(Gold Coast Sailing Club Limited, QLD) Ben Fitzpatrick and Jacob Williams
Silver level 5 – (Canberra YMCA Sailing Club, ACT) Bronwyn Ibbotson
Gold level 3 – (The Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club, NSW) Alyse Saxby
Gold level 3 – (Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club, NSW) Melissa Nelson
Gold level 5 – (Canberra Yacht Club, ACT) Allister Peek