Wednesday, 12 September 2012

‘LET ME WIN, BUT IF I CANNOT WIN, LET ME BE BRAVE IN THE ATTEMPT’ - Why I love being a Special Olympics Trainer

It’s official, the party’s over. The Olympics and Paralympics have ended and the flags are now on their way to Rio. 

Throughout the Olympics and Paralympics, not only have the stories and the triumphs engaged me completely, but the significance sport has had for all of the athletes has been obvious and electrifying.We’ve witnessed how it has changed people’s lives by giving them opportunities, goals and dreams. The power of sport is the same for everyone involved, and is especially the case for the athletes I train for the Special Olympics.

The Special Olympics is a year-round community sports programme for all children and adults who have learning disabilities. It also includes a few days of events and competition throughout the year. The ethos is to promote and encourage sport. It’s not all about the winning, but the taking part – being active, keeping fit, social interaction, learning new skills, pushing boundaries and most importantly enjoying the moment and having fun. 

I teach Joe. Joe rides on two wheels and so doesn’t need a specially adapted bike. When Joe first started training, cycling around the park was hard work. Now he’s like Forrest Gump. If I let him, he would just keep on going. We do warm ups, practice braking and gears, do mini sprints, time-trials and play games with other trainees.

Last week we were riding on a path in the park. For once it was clear – no people, no dogs, just a big open space and before I knew it, Joe put his foot down and whizzed off. I had to pedal really fast to catch him up and as I did so, I turned around and saw his face. He was smiling from ear to ear. Joe is non-verbal, but that smile said a thousand words. As a trainer, that smile is the highlight of my week.

So, the Olympics and Paralympics might be over, but here is a very Special Olympics that happens year round. Want to come and join the party?

For more information on how to get involved with the Special Olympics, go to:

For more information on taking part as a Special Olympics cycling trainee, go to:

Photo of me © James Perrin:

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