SON is a real success story with so much more to offer
- Credit: Archant
A drive for more people with intellectual disabilities to take up sport is being led by Special Olympics Norfolk (SON), the local branch of a worldwide organisation that provides facilities and opportunities for training and competition.
Speaking at a celebration party to mark the success of the county's team at the Special Olympics National Games, where local athletes won a record total of 41 medals, SON chairman Nicola Fish said: 'We hope our success will inspire more of the approximately 40,000 people living with an intellectual disability in Norfolk to take part in our regular sport sessions and enjoy the friendship, challenge and thrill that participation in sport brings.'
SON currently supports training for more than 100 athletes in seven sports – athletics, skiing, artistic gymnastics, cricket, football, swimming and boccia (a bowls-type game).
But Fish reckons they represent only about 0.25pc of the total number in the county living with an intellectual disability.
'We want to reach out to many more athletes,' she said.
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A dedicated team of SON volunteer helpers and coaches enable regular training sessions and participation in local, national and even international events. And this year has been the busiest ever.
As well as sending a 27-strong squad to the four-yearly National Games in Sheffield as part of the Eastern Region team, SON took part for the first time in the mainstream Athletics Norfolk championships and staged a regional skiing competition at the Norfolk Snowsport Park at Trowse.
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More than 100 people – including most of the medal winners, family members, carers and coaches – attended the celebration party held at the Octagon Barn, Little Plumstead, to mark the team's success and to thank local businesses, organisations and individuals for their support.
Guests included the Eastern Region's most successful competitor, 18-year-old Shane Baxter from Norwich, who brought home five golds, a silver and a bronze in artistic gymnastics, along with fellow gymnast Evie Rodwell, 15, from Diss who won a gold, a silver and three bronzes. Both train with Long Stratton Gymnastics Club under coaches Tina Wenden and Evie's mum Jo Rodwell.
Also present with his mum, dad, sister and carer was wheelchair athlete Kevin Threadgold, 30, from Taverham who exemplified the spirit of the games by winning a gold medal with an inspiring solo performance in the wheelchair race.
Kevin, who also won silver in the mini javelin and bronze in softball throw, received one of three special awards for sportsmanship at the closing ceremony.
Nicola Fish told the guests: 'Everybody here tonight feels an enormous sense of pride and achievement for what our athletes achieved. We're very grateful for all the different parts that people played in getting the athletes to the games - whether it was by coaching, volunteering at the sports sessions or by donating money to Special Olympics Norfolk.'
For more information or to get involved, visit www.specialolympicsnorfolk.com
Special Olympics Norfolk is a county branch of Special Olympics Great Britain. It was originally formed around 15 years ago, and relaunched in 2013. It is one of six branches in the Eastern Region, along with East Herts, Essex, Peterborough, Suffolk and St Albans. SON currently supports around 70 registered athletes with up to 120 training regularly and the numbers are growing. It offers seven sports: Alpine skiing, athletics, artistic gymnastics, boccia, cricket, football and swimming.