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Andrea & Cinta: A Unified Sports Journey Towards Gold!

Berlin 2023 basketball champions Andrea Ballesta and Unified partner Cinta Gomis reflect on their Special Olympics World Games experience.

“It is still difficult to find spaces where people with and without intellectual disabilities operate on a completely level footing,” admits Special Olympics Spain Unified partner Cinta Gomis. “But through Unified Sports® we found a way to make this possible.”

The story of Special Olympics basketball player Andrea Ballesta Castelltort and her Unified partner Cinta Gomis features in the compelling Athlete Legacy Series, where they look back on their performances at Berlin 2023 and reflect on the transformational impact that the Special Olympics World Games has had on their lives.

“Playing part of a Unified team has changed me”

“Winning gold was not the objective. We prepared to become a team and enjoy the Unified game,” said Cinta. “In the end, the gold was the reward for the journey that we had been on together since we’d met.”

Andrea added, “Playing as part of a Unified team has changed me as well as the other players. On and off the court, how we relate to each other so that they see us [individuals with intellectual disabilities] just as regular people.”

“It was not easy [to win gold], but I felt happy. Success was like an explosion of joy. And we celebrated as a team.”

For Andrea, who lives in Barcelona and works as an administrative assistant at educational institution Foment Formació, playing within a Unified team in Berlin made her experience more enjoyable, with the gold medal being the cherry on top.

A Unified Sports team comprises players with and without intellectual disabilities. It was inspired by a simple principle: training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding.

Group of women wearing Spanish outfit pose for a picture in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin
Andrea Ballesta and her teammates share a fun moment in Berlin during the World Games

“It is about removing labels”

Andrea’s mother Miriam says, “You see them [players and Unified partners] battling, they are warriors. They try their best. It is wonderful to see.”

Her father Luis adds, “Andrea has been on a journey which has not been easy. And basketball is an apprenticeship that then helps her in her daily life on a work and on a personal level. And it has helped her achieve goals that some years ago might have seemed unimaginable.”

Special Olympics Spain basketball coach Anna Pàmies said that Unified Sports “in the end is about removing labels. We are a team.”

Andrea first started playing basketball in elementary school while living in Madrid, when she joined the Virgen de Mirasierra team. Upon moving to Barcelona in 2012, she began competing for the AcidH-Lluïsos de Gracia team, which she represented at numerous tournaments.

Andrea, who plays either as a guard or forward, regards her experience at the Pau Gasol Academy since 2016 as one of the best in her life, not just for meeting the NBA legend, but also for vastly improving her technique and learning how to play both individually and as a team.

The World Games in Berlin continued a journey that began at the 2019 edition in Abu Dhabi, where she “had a very special experience as a person and as a player. It was a very demanding competition too, highlighting the relationship with other countries and the climate of friendship in the Spanish National Team.”

The 26-year-old describes herself as “a fighter, a team player and a good shooter.”

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