World Games Updates
Special Olympics Russia figure skating coach Anna Sedelkova and athlete Dariya Akifieva at the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games.
Special Olympics Russia Coach: Athletes are “Gifts from God to the World”
When Special Olympics Russia began recruiting coaches for Special Olympics in 1992, people were hesitant, said Anna Sedelkova. “Not me,” she declared. “I work at a special school in St. Petersburg and was delighted to help give students more sports opportunities. And after working with these athletes, I will never leave them. They are like gifts from God to the world,” she said.
Sedelkova revealed that one of Russia’s 2009 World Games figure skaters, Roman Linurov, will enjoy a reunion with his good friend, Brendan and his mother, Renee, from Kentucky, USA. Roman met Brendan at the 2001 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Alaska, USA, where they both competed, and they have stayed in touch ever since. Roman, an orphan, has visited Brendan three times and calls Brendan’s mother, “mom.” “They all love one another like a family,” said Sedelkova. Brendan and Renee have traveled to Idaho to cheer on Roman as he competes. This summer Roman will spend four months with his adopted family.
Another of Sedelkova’s 2009 Games athletes, Dariya Akifieva, 11, who has skated for four years, says one of the best aspects of Special Olympics is the praise she gets from her coach, which, “isn’t as often as I’d like,” she says with an eye toward Sedelkova. “My fellow figure skaters and I have a little competition going on in Idaho, as to who will get the most medals,” she announced. Sedelkova said that Akifieva pays attention to everything around her. “She loves the ice sculpture chair in front of the venue –it’s something I never noticed. I’m too distracted by my own thoughts to look around,” sighed Sedelkova. “Sometimes I need to see with her eyes!”
For the first time, the World Winter Games figure skating events will include Unified Sports® competition, where people with and without intellectual disabilities compete together. Special Olympics Russia is one of four countries with Unified skaters. The others are Austria, Germany and the United States.