MEET THE TEAM: Country profile - Great Britain
Everyone knows that the UAE is a melting pot of cultures with an estimated 200 different nationalities calling the Emirates home. Well, when athletes from 192 different nations from all over the world come to Abu Dhabi in March, the pot is positively going to be overflowing and the opportunity for cultural exchange will explode.
So, in order to help you get to know some of the teams who will be heading to our shores in just over two months, we will be profiling a new team every week until the games, many of whom already have large expat contingents right here in the UAE.
First, with an estimated 240,000 Britons in the UAE and long historical ties, we’re starting with Great Britain.
The GB squad’s 170 athletes, coaches and support staff mean the boys and girls from Blighty will be a force to be reckoned with at the Special Olympics. And it is by no means a coincidence that the GB is sporting such an expansive squad as Special Olympics GB are the country’s biggest provider of year-round, all ability sports programmes and support 10,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities. They host a whopping 27,000 coaching sessions a year in 28 sports. That’s a lot of smiles and achievements. (Let alone calories burned!)
While every one of the athletes who will be representing the GB at the World Games is a star in their own right, here are a few of the athletes to keep an eye on.
Hettie Bartlett – Athletics
Hettie is representing Great Britain in Athletics running for #TeamSOGB. If you want to be in with a shot of besting Hettie you’ll need to get up pretty early as the 27-year-old athlete trains seven days a week and she is one hundred percent in it to win it!
"My ambitions are to get gold in the Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi and to go to Tokyo in 2020 for the Paralympics,” she says, with her characteristic beaming smile that reflects her confidence and pride.
It is confidence that is well-placed.
“I have won 28 Special Olympic medals. Some of the competitions I have won Special Olympics medals at are Northgate in Ipswich, Windsor, Lee Valley, Birmingham and #Sheffield17 National Summer Games."
Watch out! There may be no stopping Hettie…
"I want to be the fastest and best long jumper t20/f20 athlete there ever is.”
Despite her total commitment to training and determination, Hettie has a soft side outside of Special Olympics and likes “walking the dogs, going to the gym, going to the cinema, going for walks on the beach, going clothes shopping, going to London and to see [her] niece”.
Daniel Weston – Cycling
For Daniel from Barnstable in North Devon, the trip to the UAE might feel like somewhat of a homecoming - the cyclist was born in Abu Dhabi and still has family ties to the Emirates.
The former 2012 Olympics torchbearer is a cycling fanatic and his answer to the question of what sports he likes apart from cycling is, of course, ‘cycling, cycling, cycling!’.
So, he is definitely going to be in with a good shot of two-wheeled triumph when he competes in March at Yas Marina Circuit.
“I loved riding my trike from an early age and then my dad helped me start riding on two wheels,” says Daniel.
But it was as a teenager that Daniel’s two-wheeled obsession really gathered pace.
“At the age of 14, I started riding on road on the back of a tandem with my dad piloting. We then started competing in disability competitions. By the age of 18 my dad had started to encourage me to ride solo with his support. I really enjoyed going out on the road and it wasn’t long before I started to enjoy competing on track.”
Daniel is also a great cook and works as a trainee vegetable chef at a hotel in his hometown.
“I love cooking. I know how to make my Russian grandma’s chicken and vegetable noodle soup. I am also very good at baking and decorating birthday cakes for my family and friends.”
Don’t have too many cakes before you race though Daniel, save it for the closing party!
Lily Mills – Tennis
Lily was born with Galactosaemia, a rare genetic disorder that causes learning disabilities but having survived a bleak prognosis, her mother says that tennis has been nothing short of transformative in her daughter’s life.
Despite first struggling to hit the ball, Lily's mum Tallulah says: "Having a learning disability and short-term memory loss, means the repetition of tennis has been very good for Lily, building her confidence and self-esteem.”
"For the last four years, she has won gold for the ladies top division at the Learning Disability National Tennis Tournament held in Nottingham every year." In 2016, Lily was awarded Sportswoman of the Year for Islington and she also won the Joanna Brown Trust Award.
Tallulah could not be more proud that Lily is going to be representing #TeamSOGB in Abu Dhabi and says that she “lives and breathes tennis”.