The Special Olympics have officially been declared open in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the largest world sporting platform for athletes with disabilities. Malta’s sporting representatives are filled with courage and enthusiasm following two years of intensive training and are optimistic this will produce positive results over the coming days.
Enrique Xerri and Anne Marie Bugeja were the first Maltese athletes to participate.
Enrique Xerri said this was the first time he competed and felt he did well. Anne Marie Bugeja also said she felt she had done well, had trained hard and highly appreciated the crowd’s applause.
Over the last two years, the two athletes aged 16 and 17 had trained for three hours daily after school hours to enable them to give a good performance at these Olympics. They said the all-round support they had experienced also gave them great courage.
Anne Marie said she did not feel overwhelmed and gave a 100% performance to show her capabilities at gymnastics. “I will do it for Malta. I would love to win a medal and appreciate all the support”, said Anne Marie.
Enrique said he felt encouraged because once one completes one’s routine and then hears the applause this gives greater courage to give an even better performance.
The Director of Malta’s Special Olympics team, Anna Calleja, said the hopes of Malta’s athletes are high and said the team was there to win and not just merely compete. Calleja said that sport at this high level is a Godsend for her athletes.
Anna said that when an athlete experiences the atmosphere at these world games it gives them a great boost in life, makes them feel proud they are representing their country and makes them give their 100% and these feelings do not only apply to the athletes but also to their relatives.
Thursday was a rest day following the inauguration ceremony which reached its highlight when the Olympic Torch named “A Flame of Hope” was carried around the Zayed Sport City. International artists performed during the ceremony, including the Canadian singer Avril Lavigne and International DJ Paul Oakenfold.
These Special Olympics began in 1968 and are normally held in summer but in Abu Dhabi Malta’s athletes will be experiencing temperatures that will reach 29 degrees Celsius. The 28 Maltese athletes will be among the 7,500 athletes from 190 countries from around the world.