Special Olympics Marks International Day of Persons with Disabilities with Athlete Leaders Breakfast; advocating for people with intellectual disabilities

December 03, 2013

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Special Olympics athlete leaders and mentors with Special Olympics International CEO Janet Froetscher (first row, fourth from left). Photo: Darren McGilvray for Newcastle Sundance

Promoting Understanding of Disability Issues

Newcastle (Australia), Singapore, Washington D.C. – 3 December 2013: Special Olympics, the largest organization dedicated to improving the lives of children and adults with intellectual disabilities through sport, health and education, hosted an Athlete Leaders Breakfast at the Special Olympics 2013 Asia Pacific Games for all athlete leaders across the Asia Pacific region in celebration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities today. The observance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities aims to promote an understanding of disability issues, and to mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.

In her remarks welcoming the athlete leaders, Special Olympics’ CEO Janet Froetscher commented on the importance of reflecting on the United Nations’ theme of the day, which was breaking barriers and opening doors for an inclusive society for all.

Froetscher said: “Special Olympics is breaking down barriers and opening doors through sport, health, and education for children and adults with intellectual disabilities each and every single day. Special Olympics athletes show their strengths and abilities through participation in sport. Each athlete has a different story, but each story has much in common. From the athletics track to the football field, from the bowling alley to the basketball court, our athletes show their courage, joy, perseverance and the results of all their training and hard work every day. And who better to advocate for our athletes but you, the athlete leaders. I’m excited to join all of you today to learn about your experiences in your home countries.”

As a key component of Special Olympics' dedication to social inclusion, and dignity for people with intellectual disabilities, athletes undergo the Special Olympics Athlete Leadership Program. The initiative empowers athletes with specialized training beyond sports to showcase their abilities in leadership roles, changing communities by spreading the word about the transformations Special Olympics can bring to individuals and families. For this morning’s breakfast, Froetscher was joined by athlete leaders from Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand, and Thailand who shared their experiences as advocates for the Special Olympics Movement in their home countries.

Froetscher is in Newcastle, Australia, for the inaugural Special Olympics 2013 Asia Pacific Games, joining more than 2,500 athletes and coaches from 29 Asia Pacific and East Asia countries. Special Olympics athletes will compete in nine Olympic-type sports including Athletics, Aquatics, Badminton, Basketball, Bocce, Bowling, Cricket, Football & Table Tennis.

Froetscher said: “At Special Olympics, we believe that by bringing together those with and without intellectual disabilities to compete and participate on the same playing field, divisions and barriers are broken down and prejudices and discrimination are eliminated far more quickly. The first Special Olympics 2013 Asia Pacific Games will unite people across nations and cultures to celebrate the achievements of people with intellectual disabilities.”


Individuals with intellectual disabilities: the largest of all disability groups globally

People with intellectual disabilities are one of the most marginalized and underserved populations. They are continually denied access to healthcare, social inclusion, education, and socio-economic opportunities. According to the World Bank, there are over 1 billion people with disabilities in the world. In the 27 country Special Olympics Asia Pacific region alone, Special Olympics estimates that there are as many as 72 million people with intellectual disabilities.

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Mayang Sari. Photo: Darren McGilvray for Newcastle Sundance

Mayang Sari

“In my 11 years with Special Olympics, I competed in running and swimming. With the Athlete Leaders training, I am now giving speeches about Special Olympics within my community, encouraging new athletes and volunteers to join Special Olympics.”
- Mayang Sari, 31 year-old Special Olympics Indonesia athlete leader


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Judith Porter. Photo: Darren McGilvray for Newcastle Sundance

Judith Porter

“In my 22 years with Special Olympics, I competed in Skiiing, Swimming and Tenpin Bowling. In New Zealand, many athletes in our clubs are involved as athlete reps in their Special Olympics club committees, and as assistant coaches, coaches, officials and event volunteers.”
- Judith Porter, 44 year-old Special Olympics New Zealand athlete


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Nithi Kaewsawang. Photo: Darren McGilvray for Newcastle Sundance

Nithi Kaewsawang

“Since joining Special Olympics in 2005, I competed in Football and Bocce. I am proud do more than sports – I gave speeches thanking Special Olympics sponsors and was interviewed by UNICEF Thailand on my sports achievements.”
- Nithi Kaewsawang, 23 year-old Special Olympics Thailand athlete


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Chris Bunton
Photo credit: Darren McGilvray for Newcastle Sundance

Chris Bunton

“What I like most about the Special Olympics Athlete Leadership Program is that it gives us the opportunity to spread the word about people with intellectual disabilities and change people's preconceived conceptions about people with intellectual disabilities."
- Chris Bunton, 21 year-old Special Olympics Australia athlete


Special Olympics Asia Pacific Region

1. Afghanistan
2. American Samoa
3. Australia
4. Bangladesh
5. Bharat (India)
6. Bhutan
7. Brunei Darussalam
8. Cambodia
9. Fiji
10. Indonesia
11. Laos
12. Malaysia
13. Maldives
14. Myanmar
15. Nepal
16. New Zealand
17. Nippon (Japan)
18. Pakistan
19. Papua New Guinea
20. Philippines
21. Samoa
22. Serendib (Sri Lanka)
23. Singapore
24. Thailand
25. Timor Leste
26. Tonga
27. Vietnam

About Special Olympics

Special Olympics is an international organization that changes lives through the power of sport by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities, promoting acceptance for all, and fostering communities of understanding and respect worldwide. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown from a few hundred athletes to more than 4 million athletes in over 170 countries in all regions of the world, providing year-round sports training, athletic competition and other related programs.

The Asia Pacific region is headquartered in Singapore, to oversee the operations of the Special Olympics Movement in 27 countries from Afghanistan to the Pacific Islands excluding China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Mongolia and South Korea (these six countries make up the Special Olympics East Asia region). Special Olympics Asia Pacific is the second largest region (out of seven) in the world, serving more than 1.1 million people with intellectual disabilities. The region offers 28 Olympic-type sporting activities and in addition, Special Olympics initiatives in Health Athletes®, Unified Sports®, Young Athletes™, Project UNIFY and the Athlete Leadership Program.

Media contacts
Karyn Tan
Manager, Communications & Development
Special Olympics, Asia Pacific Region Office
ktan@specialolympics.org

Valerie Tan
SG Story for Special Olympics Asia Pacific
specialolympicsap@sgstory.com


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