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Getting on With It—An Athlete’s Perspective After World Games

Nakorn running on the track during an athletes competition. He has on a brightly colored tank top, blue shorts, and black spandex.

‘Getting on with it’ is my motto to survive in life.

At 34, I (Nakorn Thiptabmak) was the oldest athlete representing Team Thailand at the recent 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi.

It was my first time on a plane. I was so nervous but I just got on with it.

‘Getting on with it is what I always tell myself to do in life.

Growing up with Down Syndrome, I struggled to express myself and got frustrated when people couldn’t understand me. As a teenager, I was aggressive. I shouted at others and got into fights. Sometimes, I would act out by stealing.

My family described me as ‘destructive’. My mother had to work hard to support my sister and I. She found it a challenge to take care of me. And so more than 20 years ago, my family decided to leave me in the care of the Ban Kru Boonchoo Foundation, which runs a home for children with disabilities, in Cholburi province.

In the early days at the children’s home, I felt abandoned. If my own family didn’t want to care for me, who would?

I was so wrong. Over the years, I realized that if others are willing to trust and believe that I am capable of good, then I must not give up on myself. I have to get on with it.

I found a new family and purpose. Everyone is kind to me. I now call the director of the foundation, ‘mother’. At the home, I am entrusted with a job, helping with administrative tasks and chores. I have learnt how to be responsible and play the role of a big brother to the younger residents.

Nakorn Thiptabmak with another athlete giving the thumbs up. Both have on Special Olympics Thailand World Game Abu Dhabi 2019 zip up jackets. Athletes from Thailand re in the background.

I was thrilled to be selected to represent Thailand in athletics at the recent World Games. I trained twice every day, before and after work. I was told that it didn’t matter if I brought home a medal so long as I tried my best.

But guess what? I took home two Gold medals in the 100m and 200m races. I was also selected to represent Thailand in the Athletes’ Parade at the Games’ Closing Ceremony. I was so proud when I stepped into the huge stadium and waved to the thousands of people cheering us on.

When I arrived home, I was so surprised to see all the staff and my friends from the foundation waiting to give me a hero’s welcome. Our neighbors from the village were also present, and they paraded down the street carrying banners with my photo on them.

My life is no longer the same. I feel like a hero and a role model, a far cry from the rebellious teenager I once was. There are still days when I feel like I have to get on with it, but I do so standing tall and with a fighting spirit.

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