India may only win a handful of medals at the Olympics, but the Special Olympics have always been a happy hunting ground for Indian athletes. At the Special Olympics World Summer Games 2015, Indian athletes won a total of 173 medals, including 47 gold, 54 silver and 72 bronze medals. Four years earlier, India had won 156 medals (56 gold, 48 silver and 52 bronze medals) at Athens.
With another edition of the Special Olympics starting in Austria, here’s all you need to know about the competition:
What is the Special Olympics?
The Special Olympics comprise a group of athletic competitions for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. The competition is held every two years, alternating between the Special Olympics World Summer Games and the Special Olympics World Winter Games. This year, the Special Olympics World Winter Games are being held in Austria, which in 1993, became the first country outside the US to host the Special Olympics World Winter Games. The competition started on Tuesday and will go on till 25 March.
The last Special Olympics World Winter Games were held in 2013 in Pyeongchang, South Korea while Los Angeles hosted the Special Olympics World Summer Games in 2015. Unlike the Paralympics, the Special Olympics are not held in the same year as the Olympics.
Who are the athletes?
Almost 2,700 athletes from 107 countries will be competing this year. About 1,000 coaches will also accompany these athletes. Only those who are over eight years of age are allowed to participate. A competitor needs to be identified by an agency or professional as having one of the following conditions: intellectual disabilities, cognitive delays as measured by formal assessment, or significant learning or vocational problems due to cognitive delay that require or have required specially designed instruction.
What events will be held?
Alpine skiing, floorball, floor hockey, figure skating, snowboarding, speed skating and snowshoeing are the sports included in this year’s competition.
This year, two demonstration contests will also be organised: dancing and MATP (motor activity training programme).
How many Indians are taking part this year?
This year will see 90 Indians — 45 male and 45 female — competing for glory. Indian participants will be seen in action in events like alpine skiing, floorball, floor hockey, figure skating, snowboarding, speed skating and snowshoeing.
While 32 Indians will compete in floorball, floor hockey will also see 32 competitors.
How did the Special Olympics start?
The Special Olympics are the brainchild of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who is the sister of former US president John F Kennedy. Shriver had organised informal sports events in her backyard in an effort to bring joy and a sense of belonging to those with intellectual disabilities for many years before she held the first Special Olympics World Games in 1968 in Chicago, where around 1,000 athletes from the US and Canada participated.
Are there winners and losers?
Athletes are divided into groups based on criteria like age and ability. The top three finishers in each category are awarded gold, silver and bronze medals just like at the Olympics. However, everyone who takes part is given a participation ribbon and gets the opportunity to stand on the victory platform unlike at the Olympics.
How big is the event?
Athletes at the event will be representing countries from all corners of the world, including Burkina Faso, Iceland, Dominican Republic, Syria, St Lucia, to name a few.
Further details can be found on the Special Olympics website or on the special website for the 2017 edition of the Special Olympics World Winter Games.
Updated Date: Mar 15, 2017 13:55 PM