Special Olympics Europe Eurasia (SOEE) has announced the selection of six new members for the Regional Athlete Leadership Council (RALC) who will serve during the 2024 – 2027 term.
The individuals chosen for this important role include Inge Maiberg from SO Estonia, Julia Fonsen from SO Finland, Tamas Kiss from SO Hungary, Niall Guite from SO Great Britain, Shanaia Xuereb from SO Malta and Michael Lofink from SO Germany.
They will represent the collective voice of all SOEE athletes, ensuring that their ideas and opinions contribute to the enhancement of the movement and that the voices of athletes extend far beyond the confines of the sports arena.
Members of the RALC are selected through proposals put forth by regional National Programs. Successful candidates exhibit strong leadership skills and a profound interest in and understanding of the movement and the diverse needs of its athletes.
Maiberg will also be joining the 2024 – 2027 Global Athlete Leadership Council (GALC) and, as such, will Chair the RALC. The 25-year-old swimmer said, “When I'm not in the water, I love skating on ice. During the day, I have a job at a school where I support children, I want to be a tutor to them and make their days better.
“I think that athlete leaders are exactly the example for society that everything is possible if you believe in it.”
Fonsen has three years of experience as an Athlete Leader and is a passionate football player. She said, “I believe it is important that current and former athletes have their voices heard, not only on the playing fields and courts but also beyond them.”
The Finn recently achieved a groundbreaking feat as the first Assistant Team Leader for her country at a Special Olympics World Games in Berlin, Germany, in 2023.
Kiss brings a wealth of experience to the RALC, having joined SO Hungary in 2008 and excelling in multiple sports such as athletics, football, handball and table tennis. Outside sports, he is a maintenance worker at Iván Mándy Vocational School.
He said, “I saw at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Berlin, how motivated athlete leaders are and how they help others.”
Guite, a cycling gold medalist from the 2015 and 2023 World Games, stands out as vice-chair of the SOGB Athlete Leadership Council.
He said, “I am passionate about leadership because you cannot be what you cannot see.
“If more people with intellectual disability are seen doing positive things and speaking about their lives and dreams, then others will feel that they too can be a positive part of society and not feel that they are less than anyone else."
Xuereb competes in athletics and bowling, and found renewed courage, confidence and happiness thanks to Special Olympics Malta.
The 27-year-old said, “Special Olympics gave me the tools I needed to become an Athlete Leader, helped me build my leadership skills to become a more effective advocate for myself, but most important for all the athletes with intellectual disabilities”.
With a sports background in cycling, Lofink has been a vital member of the Athletes Council of Baden Württemberg since 2019 and Chairman of SO Germany’s Athletes Council since 2021.
He strongly believes that “through proper encouragement, athletes can achieve much more.”