For the first time ever Special Olympics gymnasts demonstrated their skills and abilities to the crowds attending the 2012 European Championship Women’s Artistic which took place in Belgium from May 9 – 13th. This opportunity came following the signing of a partnership agreement between Special Olympics and the European Gymnastics Federation (UEG) in 2011 to promote greater opportunities in gymnastics for people with intellectual disabilities.
The Special Olympics demonstration took place before the second afternoon session of the team qualifications. After a brief introduction, the large crowd at the stadium welcomed the athletes with warm applause.
Brian Roza, a 12 year old athlete from Special Olympics Belgium was the first to perform his floor exercise and the thrill and pride of performing in such a large stadium on such a perfect floor took over any nerves he may have had. He smiled from the beginning to end of his performance.
Next up was 13 year old Salwa Fellah Boughaba, a triple Gold medal winner at the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games which took place in Athens, Greece. Her performance took place on her favourite appliance: the beam. She was very deeply touched by the response from the audience.
The athletes were honoured and proud to reveal the true potential of Special Olympics athletes to the European Gymnastics community.
“We are very grateful to Georges Guelzec, President of UEG for making this opportunity happen” stated Mary Davis, President of Special Olympics Europe Eurasia. “When Georges came to see our gymnastics competitions at the 2011 World Summer Games he was so impressed he promised that our athletes would showcase their abilities at the European Championship. Today he has delivered on that promise”.
Gratitude also goes to Organising Committee of the Championships, as well as the Royal Belgian Gymnastics Federation (Gymnastiek Federatie Vlaanderen vzw and the Fédération francophone de Gymnastique) and the European Gymnastics Federation (UEG).