More than 300 athletes took part in events throughout towns and village special schools, social care homes and days centres in Lithuania as part of 2011 Special Olympics European Basketball Week from November 24th to December 4th.
A Unified Basketball competition, local games, a regional tournament and a promotional appearance at the Euroleague game between Zalgiris Kaunas and Unicaja were among the highlights of events organised by Special Olympics Lithuania.
November 27th was witness to a Unified Basketball competition in Linkuva with social care workers from the surrounding social care homes participating in the competition as partners. This was the first ever Unified Basketball event of its kind in Linkuva and it hopes to set a precedent and become a yearly tradition. On social care worker commented; “This has been a very enjoyable day for all of us. I am looking forward to next year already.”
Local competitions for special schools were held in Jurdaicai on November 29th and Kaunas on November 30th with over 50 athletes in attendance at each event.
The penultimate Special Olympics European Basketball Week event in Lithuania took place on December 1st. Twenty Special Olympics teams from various Lithuanian towns and villages converged on the Radvilliskis Sports Centre. Special Olympics teams competing on the day included Venta, Auskstelke, Seduva, Kaunas, Ukmefe, Kedainiai, Rusne and Kazlu Ruda. The day long event included men’s and women’s games with partners from the Radvilliskis women’s basketball team being on hand to make up the numbers for the women’s competition.
Finally, eight Special Olympics athletes and two coaches attended the Euroleague game between Zalgiris Kaunas and Unicaja in the Kaunas arena on November 30th. Prior to the game Zalgiris Kaunas captain, Paulius Jankunas addressed the fans; “European Basketball Week is about creating opportunities and promoting widespread participation for players with and without intellectual disabilities at all levels of basketball.” Special Olympics athlete, Robertas Simaitis also addressed the thousands of spectators; “Basketball is my favourite sport, I love playing and watching it. I want to thank Euroleague Basketball and the Euroleague players for all their support. ”
During the half time interval, Special Olympics athletes played a demonstration game refereed by the famous Modesta Paulauskas.