Malaysia’s athletes shine at the Special Olympics
KUALA LUMPUR, 5 July 2011 – The nation’s special athletes proved yet again their determination and abilities, bringing home 23 medals, including six gold from the recent 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games held in Athens, the birthplace of the modern Olympic Games.
Malaysia’s gold medals from the Games held from 25 June – 4 July came from bocce (Yeoh Shu Zhen and Amy Melissa Ho), bowling (Betharia Mayunsia and Rafiqah Rosdin), kayaking (Mohd Shafiq Aziz) and long jump (Mohd Nur Nikman and Suhairah Abdul Samad). The 35-athlete and 13-official team also came home with six silver and 11 bronze medals. The Games brought together more than 7,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities from 180 countries competing in 22 Olympic-type sports.
“Given the right environment, persons with disabilities, including children can develop their strengths and realise their full potential to the benefit of both themselves and society,” said a delighted Mr. Hans Olsen, UNICEF Representative to Malaysia. “Robbing them of these opportunities is actually a terrible waste of potentially happy futures and national human resources."
Denied their rights
Children with disabilities are routinely denied equal access to health, education and social services. They are also often excluded from opportunities to participate in their families and communities, and are at higher risk of violence and abuse.
“These kids, more than any other kids, are stigmatised, they are excluded from schools, they are expelled from their families, they are vulnerable to trafficking of the most horrible kinds, they are denied the right to become productive members of their societies, which is a loss to the societies as well as the kids,” explained UNICEF Executive Director Mr. Anthony Lake who travelled to Athens to participate in the Games Opening Ceremony.
UNICEF is collaborating with partners like the Special Olympics to promote equal opportunities for children with disabilities and help them reach their full potential. The global partnership with the Special Olympics began in 2007 and currently features collaboration in 15 countries.
Cherish all children
At a special ceremony held during the Games, UNICEF and Special Olympics pledged to strengthen their global partnership. Together, Mr. Lake and Mr. Timothy P. Shriver, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Special Olympics, committed their organisations to challenging negative attitudes about children with disabilities, and changing laws and policies that deny them equitable access to health, education and other social services.
Mr. Shriver underscored the organisations’ commitment to achieve real results. “We sign an agreement with a voracious and relentless determination to make action out of the agreement. And we will have no satisfaction if in one year, or two years or three years we put this agreement on our walls and have nothing to show for it.”
Drawing on inspiration from the young Special Olympic athletes he had met, Mr. Lake added: “A world that cherishes every child is a better world for all children. That is what we’re working toward – and may we all be brave in the attempt to build that better world.”..............................................................................................
NOTE TO EDITOR:
UNICEF in Action: Malaysia
UNICEF and Special Olympics
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Indra Kumari Nadchatram