Disability does not disqualify our children from becoming champions

Coming back to Jamaica with a Silver medal in 800 metres swimming at  the 2019 Abu Dhabi Special Olympics has touched my life, especially because four years earlier I was disqualified.

At the time I was in shock, but I knew had to come back. Being disqualified had me in tears because it would have been a Gold and all of a sudden it was gone.

My race is 32 laps of a 25-metre pool and this time around for every lap I had to tell myself: stay focused, keep pushing and just keep going and do your best. 

Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me brave in the attempt

My whole life I have always believed in myself and like the Special Olympics motto says: “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me brave in the attempt.” So I had to be brave, put myself together, tell myself no nerves, and I did it – I won!

Back when I was a six-year-old, I was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). At school I could never sit still, always walking up and down in a class and couldn’t concentrate because with all those children around me I could not focus.

Going to a special school then helped me calm myself. I had a love for swimming from early and growing up it helped me to build my confidence – from when I joined Special Olympics Jamaica 13 years ago. I am now 29, and it is thanks to the Special Olympics family and swimming that I have had the opportunity to be where I am today. 

Volunteering to help children who share my experience

When I am not training I help my mother teach swimming. I also do some voluntary work going into special needs nurseries where I assist the teachers, which includes interacting with children who have ADHD like me. I help the children to focus using alphabet letters, numbers and colours.

I look at them and I see me – I believe that their future can be bright. With the right support they can do anything in life.

UNICEF recently signed a new $12-million partnership with Special Olympics that will enable them to reach more children across Jamaica. This includes the construction of new playgrounds; early childhood level unified sport; healthy athlete screening; family health education; and training of Special Olympics staff and volunteers.

 

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