The 2023 Special Olympics National Team hopes to replicate their success at the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games in the United Arab Emirates where they returned triumphant with 35 gold, 15 Silver and 12 Bronze medals.
Palesa Manaleng for EWN
Team South Africa jetted off to Berlin, Germany, for the Special Olympics World Summer Games on Sunday.
There they will be competing against 7,000 athletes from across 180 countries.
“Let the games begin,” announced Special Olympic South Africa (SOSA) chairperson, Dr Mathews Phosa after National Assembly Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma officially handed over the national flag to the team.
The ceremonial handover of the SA Flag to Team SA demonstrates the nation’s trust and support in their athletes as they prepare to make their mark on the international stage.
“I’m here to see off the best among us who are going to represent South Africa in Berlin and we have no doubt that they are going to do us proud in Berlin. We have no doubt that they will bring back trophies and medals. We congratulate you on this journey up to now, and thank you for all the effort that you have put in to be here,” beamed Dlamini-Zuma.
Team SA comprises 64 athletes and 21 coaches.
The Special Olympics World Games are the world’s largest inclusive sports event. It sees housands of athletes with intellectual disabilities compete in 26 sports.
“I’m excited about my brother going to Germany, I become emotional when I think about it. My brother is the most important person at home. I wish him blessings in Germany, he must come back with medals and trophies,” said Vuyelwa James to Eyewitness News.
The 2023 Special Olympics National Team hopes to replicate their success at the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games in the United Arab Emirates – where they returned triumphant with 35 gold, 15 Silver and 12 Bronze medals.
“My son is participating in golf, it’s his second time, his been to Abu Dhabi before and has been selected again and we are extremely excited. We are joining him in Germany on Wednesday, this is an enormous event said Wynand van Niekerk.
Dora James the mother of swimmer Aubrey James told Eyewitness News that she was proud that her son never gave up on his dreams: “I feel proud, we may not have a lot of money to assist him but I’m proud because he didn’t give up. I was there always to support him even when it was difficult for us, I tried my best as a mother. I wish him good luck and he must bring back a medal.”
Team SA was selected after the 2022 Special Olympics South Africa National Summer Games in Limpopo during the three-day event, Special Olympics athletes competed in eight sporting codes: athletics, aquatics, basketball, boccie, football, futsal, netball, table tennis and ten-pin bowling.
National table tennis athlete Innocentia Nomhle Msikinya from Tau village in the North West has been competing for two years and will be representing South Africa for the first time, she said her community has been helping her to prepare for the World Games.
“At home, I’ve been receiving a lot of support even from community coaches who have been coming to my school and assisting me. At home, I’ve been playing against the wall. I’ve been getting a lot of support from the community and the school.”
National table tennis coach Mmamokete Betty Komako toldEyewitness News that she’s confident the athletes will bring more medals this time around.
“Coaching the national team has been interesting because you have to meet different provinces, so it’s very interesting and it’s also where you can see that intellectually disabled children have an ability in sports.”