Anca's Winning Shot

Anca Chirita’s journey to the Special Olympics World Games was a long one.  The 20-year-old Romanian bocce player was abandoned to an institution at the age of 3 and was shifted among various institutions every couple of years after that.

Competing at the Games

The 20-year-old Romanian bocce player was abandoned to an institution at the age of three, and was shifted among various institutions every couple of years after that.

Anca was introduced to Special Olympics Romania in 2003, when she began participating in athletics. According to Romania’s National Director, Cristian Ispas, she transitioned out of the institution and into a group home for people with disabilities, thanks to the help of Foundation Motivation Romania and the sponsorship of an Irish charity known as Comber Romania, which works to end orphanages in Romania and ensure that people with disabilities can fully participate and be included in society.

At the 2011 Special Olympics World Games, Anca was joined by 46 other athletes from Romania who are competing in bocce, gymnastics, athletics and table tennis, as well as unified football and unified basketball. The bocce team in particular has provided stiff competition to their big rivals from SO Costa Rica.  

The two teams met for the first time in the preliminary round, where Romania won by a single point.  Anca, who is usually assisted by a wheelchair, uses a walking stick when she plays bocce.  After Anca made the winning shot, Costa Rica disputed it on the grounds that her walking stick had interfered with the defense.  The officials overruled the complaint and Romania was declared the winner.

The two teams then advanced to the semi-final round, where they both came out ahead of their opponents.  Thus, the two teams met again for a rematch in the final round, where the competition was neck and neck.  In the final seconds of the game, Anca’s final shot brought Romania the victory!

As her team rushed around her in celebration, Anca was beaming with pride.  As Ispas describes, “Anca’s confidence has improved tremendously since she first started in Special Olympics. At first she would ask ‘how can I play? I am in a wheelchair?’ but now, Anca is Team Romania’s hero. “

Being a Team Player

Ispas also describes her as a “team player.”  She is always thinking about her teammates, and would give anything for them.  And although Anca’s days in the institution are far behind her (she now lives with a family in Bucharest), she never forgets that children like her are still there.

In Romania, institutionalization is far less common than it was two decades ago, thanks to the influence of organizations like Comber Romania and the Motivation Center, where Anca now volunteers.  These organizations have also helped to transform society’s perceptions toward people with disabilities and to create more opportunities for inclusion for people with disabilities.  Special Olympics’  “SO Get Into It” curriculum has been introduced in hundreds of schools in Bucharest and throughout the country; unified football and unified basketball are also growing in popularity.  Over the past three years, the Vodafone Foundation and the European Union have supported unified sports programs in Bucharest schools and communities. 

As Anca returns home a Special Olympics gold medalist, there is no doubt her contagious joy and hope will spread to all who know her and learn of her achievements. And her victory will speak volumes on behalf of her brothers and sisters who still live in the institution.