After competing in the prestigious Special Olympics 2019 held in Abu Dhabi earlier this month, the South African team came home with a whopping 59 medals, 35 gold, 12 silver and 12 bronze.

In an interview on 702, CEO of Special Olympics South Africa Ancilla Smith commented on the national team’s achievement.

“They certainly did South Africa proud and we were completely overwhelmed at their performance, 100% given by every athlete and an absolute pleasure and joy to watch them compete.”

Founded in 1968 and hosted every two years, the Special Olympics World Games is annual sporting event that provides people with intellectual disabilities with a platform from which to compete. Competitors from all walks of life are welcomed at the event.

When they returned to South Africa after the games, upon touching down in Johannesburg the national team was welcomed with open arms by their family and friends.

The Special Olympics South Africa organisation was founded in 1991 and provides training and support to athletes with intellectual disabilities. It currently reaches more than 32 000 athletes across nine provinces and offers training in 13 official sports.



Special Olympics South Africa ran a campaign called “Back Our Team” to raise funds for their athletes to travel to Abu Dhabi.

Although it was a rocky road to get funding for the national team, Smith said last-minute support came through for them.

“We went still with some of our funding short, but fortunately we had a couple of sponsors come on board, I really need to give a shoutout to Ford South Africa that came through literally a week before we left and sponsored 30 athletes to go across and that really helped us make sure we got the team across.”

Smith said the organisation struggles to receive funding and hopes that the national government will eventually recognise the role they play in helping those with intellectual disabilities.

“I think the critical thing is that the Special Olympics is not just a olympics sports organisation, we run enormous health programming for people with intellectual disabilities in South Africa, we do early childhood development programing, there is family support….so it is way more than just an olympic sports organisation and we need funding to keep all of this afloat.”


Picture: Special Olympics South Africa, Facebook






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