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Róża Banasik-Zarańska, Special Olympics Europe Eurasia, Kayaking Technical & Unified Sports Delegate

Róża Banasik-Zarańska

Special Olympics Europe Eurasia, Kayaking Technical & Unified Sports Delegate

During Women’s History Month, seven women, one from each Special Olympics Region, shared their unique stories of what it was like to participate in and plan a World Games.

What Word Games were/are you involved and what was/is your role?

I found Special Olympics in 1992 and had the chance to be one of the pioneers of our movement in Poland. I proposed kayaking as a Special Olympics sport and was lucky that my proposal was accepted. I was a Technical Delegate in 2003 in Dublin, Ireland where kayking was on the sport program for the first time. I was also the Technical Delegate at the World Games in Shanghai, China in 2007, in Athens, Greece in 2011, and in Abu Dhabi, UAE in 2019. In Los Angeles 2015, I was Chief Official.

I have the privilege to be the Technical Delegate and Unified Technical Delegate in Berlin 2023. It has been more than 30 years in Special Olympics. The Berlin Games are an anniversary for me—20 years of being Technical Delegate. But I have to admit, I still feel like I have just started and still have a lot of ideas for the future.

What type of training do you need to become technical delegate in your sport?

This is a very good question. Some people ask me, “Can I go to the Games as technical delegate?” I answer, “Sure, you just need to have knowledge and experience and you have to do a lot of training.”

I used to be professional athlete, so I do know sport from a basic level. I also studied coaching and physical education in a sport academy. After graduation, I took courses in teaching people with intellectual disabilities.

When I became an official, I officiated as many competition as I could. Organizing competitions yourself also provides great experience. Then you come to understand how much effort organizers put in preparation. I also had great teachers from Special Olympics International (SOI). Our meetings taught me a lot. So, it was a very holistic approach.

Are there many female technical delegates in your sport? Why or why not?

Kayaking is a sport that requires power and endurance. More and more females are participating as athletes and officials. I do like SOI and the IOC’s aim to have gender equality. For Special Olympics kayaking, we have only female TDs, but we do have more and more officials involved.

What advice would you share with women who aspire to be in a role like yours?

Sport breaks barriers. And I dare say I am living example. I was lucky to be chosen to have Special Olympics in my life. So, if you have something you can share, just do it. Giving is receiving. I think I have received much more and still have more to give. I devoted a lot of work and would say it’s a very simple recipe: never stop dreaming, never give up, be patient and work hard. Simply be brave in your attempt.

Who is your female role model?

I am privileged to know great athletes with absolutely golden hearts—Olympic medallists and many great people involved in sport. But undoubtedly Eunice Kennedy Shriver is my role model. Thanks to her ideas and will to implement them in life—me, myself, just simple P.E. teacher in a special school was able to give new opportunities to people with intellectual disabilities in the sport of kayaking.

Women of World Games

  • Dorothy Okatch Special Olympics Africa, Basketball Official, World Games Abu Dhabi 2019
  • Nicole Harris Special Olympics Asia Pacific, Special Olympics Australia athlete on 2025 & 2029 World Winter Games Bid Evaluation Team
  • Kyung-won Na Special Olympics East Asia, Chairwoman, World Winter Games Pyeongchang 2013
  • Róża Banasik-Zarańska Special Olympics Europe Eurasia, Kayaking Technical & Unified Sports Delegate
  • Teresa Leitão Special Olympics Latin America, Tennis Technical Delegate at the 2011, 2015, and 2019 World Games
  • Kristine Hughes Assistant Technical Delegate, Volleyball, World Games Berlin 2023
  • Layla Alhajjaj Special Olympics Middle East / North Africa, Manager of Transformation and Legacy for Special Olympics UAE, World Games Abu Dhabi 2019

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