World Games Updates
Jimmy Masina (left, yellow shirt) is just one of the athletes serving as an official at the 2009 World Winter Games.
Taking on New Challenges: Athlete Officials at World Winter Games
Athletes ready for a new challenge can also become officials through the Special Olympics Officials Program for Athletes. Athletes who become certified officials may also qualify to serve as officials in competitions within the national Governing Body or International Federation.
At the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games, there will be more athlete officials than at any previous Special Olympics World Winter Games. And for the first time athletes from Jamaica and South Africa will officiate floor hockey at World Winter Games.
Special Olympics South Africa athlete Nhlanhla William “Jimmy” Masina is an official for the sport of floor hockey at the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games. He is the first athlete to be selected from South Africa and the Africa region for this role, a strong testament to the talent that individuals with an intellectual disability display when provided with the necessary training and support.
Masina, 27, was raised by his adoring grandmother Maggie Thomo in Tsakane. It was during his early years at Kombihlela Primary School that teachers discovered that Masina had a learning disability and transferred him to Matshediso School for Learners with Special Education Needs. It was at home that Masina struggled the most to be accepted and for years had to endure his younger sisters and brothers refer to him as “mad.” Through skills training and support at Matshediso School, Masina was able to take on a meaningful role at the school, learning and later teaching sewing to other students with an intellectual disability.
Masina was introduced to Special Olympics in the late 1990s, competing in football and athletics, but it was in floor hockey that he really excelled. Masina found an additional calling in 2000, when he was invited to a two-day Special Olympics South Africa officiating workshop in floor hockey. Today, he is one of Special Olympics South Africa’s most senior and experienced officials, umpiring at numerous provincial and national events. His selection to officiate at the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games came as no surprise to fellow Special Olympics South Africa officials who know him to be accurate and level headed even during the most heated finals.
Special Olympics Pennsylvania athlete and official Becky Fischer also will be on the floor hockey court during the 2009 World Games. She’s been an official for 10 years and refereed the Division 11, gold-medal round, between Austria and Algeria at the 2005 Special Olympics World Winter Games.
Fischer’s history with Special Olympics goes way back. She got involved at 9 years old, when her physical education teacher asked her if she’d be interested in joining Special Olympics because it was starting an Alpine skiing program and it was free. “I thought ‘free skiing, a new sport? Why not?’ I skied until I was 18 and competed in athletics too.” At 18, Fischer hung up her skis and athletic shoes and decided to coach instead. “I retired from competition in favor of coaching and officiating,” said Fischer. “I like officiating better than coaching. An official has more responsibility, and more responsibility makes you a better person.”
Despite being told by a special education teacher that she was not “college material,” Fischer graduated from Penn State University with an Associates Degree in Childcare Development on 21 December 2008. Although it took her six years, Fischer never dropped a class and passed every one she took, including statistics. It was a dream come true for Fischer.
Along with Masina and Fischer, Richard Oates from Kingston, Jamaica, and Nicholas Daniels from Georgia, USA, also will officiate floor hockey games. Syd Lea from Maryland, USA, will be the athlete official for speed skating.