UNIFIED MOMENT OF THE DAY
The Special Olympics movement is all about inclusion and making a connection with fellow members of the human race and treating them as equals. Every day during the games we have started with a unified moment of the day - one moment that for us signifies that connection.
On day 6 that was
The smile at the end of this video from Australian Special Olympics Athlete Ellen Maher as Special Olympics Chairman Dr. Tim Shriver tells her she is famous around the world!
Day 6 highlights
A symphony of shuttlecocks
There is so much intense energy being expended and a near-cloud of shuttlecocks being swatted back and forward, that it can be almost impossible to concentrate on any single one of the frenetic battles of will going on the 11 badminton courts in hall 5 of ADNEC on finals day. However, there were two that caught our eye for their passion and determination.
(Thailand) Salakrak Chomchobtam vs Florence Etim (Nigeria)
From the outset, a furious pace of play was established but 15-year-old Florence hit the net with the first two points. Both players soon settled into a rhythm and seemed quite evenly matched with divisioning clearly achieving its aim of creating a level playing field for these athletes of determination. As they settled into the first match it was Florence’s reach and power that saw her steal a slight march on the older Chomchobtam. But she was not going to let her opponent run away with it as they drew level at 17 all. Then 18 all and 19 all until the Florence drove two points into the netting in a row but she rallied with a smash and one drop shot to take the first game.
In the second game, Florence looked to establish some dominance with a mix of large smashes and gentle parries but a few too many mistakes saw the pair draw level at 4 all. It was the net that was her enemy not the woman on the other side of the net. At 7-5 however, she seemed to find more rhythm. The most beautiful of drop shots, seemingly floating over the net saw the African draw three points ahead 11-8 at the rest break. Barely exchanging anything but a smile with her coach there seems to be supreme confidence to this player. On the other side of the next 19-year-old Chomchobtam was deep in discussion with her coach. Could this prove decisive? Perhaps so as the duo tied at 12-12 and then Chomchobtam took the lead for the first time in the match. We can only surmise what her coach had told her, but it worked. An instinctive reply to a smash though saw the Nigerian back on top. At 20-19 to Florence, she had no reply to a beautiful smash or the following drop shot as it went 21-20, 21-21, 22,22. Then one exhausting 22 shot rally later and it is match point to Florence – a smash and miss and it is all over. She drops her racket and puts her hands to her face belying the joy she is feeling and offered a respectful handshake of her opponent, who, though she had put up a determined fight, came up wanting this time around.
(Pakistan) Umer M verses Vikesh Magenthran (Singapore)
This duo went toe to toe from the very first point through the first eight points but it was Pakistan’s Umer who started to establish dominance with a slightly longer reach than his opponent over the net. Halfway through the first game and it was already time for the coaches to have their say and offer gentle words of encouragement to their high performing athletes. After the break, a couple of unfortunate forced errors from Magenthran saw Umer steal a seven-point lead. Now 10 points ahead it looked like Umer was cruising to a relatively easy win of the first game, which he did wrap up three points later with a strong series of points.
The second match was even more of a one-sided battle as Umer developed his play and started stretching out his shot selection to which unfortunately Magenthran had no response. That is how the game continued and apart from a moment of lovely sportsmanship where the ref got hit on the head, it seemed a foregone conclusion and they were just the second match of the session concluded with Umer outgunning his opponent from the start.
Proving the naysayers wrong
Some of the Team Baharat athletes come from rural villages where the acceptance of their limitations is not a given. Muskaan is one of those athletes and has her mother’s dogged persistence to thank for her success at these Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019. Her father abandoned her at birth, and family and friends told her mother to stop wasting her time on Muskaan. As her mother enrolled her in school and sports events, they told her the investment would be futile and would not amount to anything. But her mother says, “Something in me kept pushing me forward against everyone’s wishes. I always had faith in sports, her teachers and her coaches.”
This week Muskaan has proved her naysayers wrong, winning a silver in both squat and bench press, gold in deadlift and bronze in a combo of three.
Now people in her village are calling to congratulate her. Muskaan told this blog: “My phone never rang this much!” but she also knows the person with her on the podium is her mother, and for her, she is eternally grateful.
A match to remember
Ivory Coast versus USA – Basketball
Warm-ups by the team from the States were a serious affair with their coach running defensive drills while the African team watched on. The dedication they were showing as they started sprints too was a little like watching the All Blacks perform the Hakka before a rugby match – but will it have a psychological effect on their opponents? Was it a coincidence that many of the drills were carried out while staring menacingly straight at their opponents?
Warm-ups over – though Ivory Coast, decked in luminous orange seemed to be saving it for game tie – it was time for tip-off.
USA spent the first two minutes tried to open the scoring with some really ambitious three-pointers but after four attempts the net result, no baskets.
Finally, the hard-working David Williams scores and earns a free throw in the process. He sinks that too. And Ivory Coast athlete number 5 is dispossessed of the ball team USA take it to the basket again. Quick feet from Ivory Coast’s number 10 as he pivots and tries to get on his team on the scoreboard but alas, no dice as the scoreboard remains. 4-0
The breakthrough for Ivory Coast comes a moment later by Ibrahima Traore with a major break well out in front leads to an easy layup and they are off and running.
Williams again from the US though responds with a full-court charge to the basket and beautiful finger roll.
Both teams at the top of their game and showing serious determination to dominate, this one is hard to keep up with.
After a seriously dramatic start to the second-period athlete of determination, Afouman Kadjo make a vital defensive interception but is smacked to the ground. Embraced immediately by his teammates and coach he is led off. Determination indeed.
The score is now 11-10 US as Ivory Coast claw back even more points in answer to US free throws. The end court game from Ivory Coast is impressive and if they could cut down on the fouls at the other end, would be leading this game free and clear.
After a time out from the US coach, the baskets started coming more from Ivory Coast as the US was seemingly losing their mojo at the other end. ‘Alles! Allez!’ yelled their supporters!
Both Ivory Coast team and supporters were now hitting their stride now but the US was recapturing some of the momentum with two simple baskets. It’s 22-15 to Ivory Coast at the end of the second quarter.
You have to admire the style of Ivory Coast who have such a laid back approach about them, seemingly lacking competitive edge, until they get the ball and then there is only one thing on the agenda.
Two three points in a row though from the states draw them back closer at 21-22.
There is a serious fight going on here as we see great defense from US number 21 – real commitment, stopping three opponents in the tracks but equally impressive rebound play see Ivory Coast extend the lead to 25-21
The US shot maker Anthony White, shows his skills again with an epic three-pointer but Ivory Coast takes it straight down the other end. One beautifully shot and converted three throws and then another however and the US is back to 27-26 behind. And then lead 28-27.
Ivory coast calls a time out with 59 seconds left on the clock in the third quarter. It’s the first major sign of coach input for this team, that has now dropped its cool and calm exterior for a more determined approach to the Game.
For the first time in the game the iconic U.S.A! U.S.A! chant can be heard around the stands as if the American fans have just woken up to the fact this one is on a knife edge. Ivory Coast has a chance to draw level but miss a free throw but testament to the pace of this game a minute later they retake the lead. 29-28. They then capitalize with some quick hands and round the back dunk from their talented number 10.
It’s so close – at the start of the fourth and final quarter, there is just one point in it 31-30. A flurry of baskets later and it is a total deadlock - 39-39 as this match continues to enthrall.
Now it is 41-39 with two minutes to go as Ivory Coast score a hard-won two points. Can the US such a close the gap? A momentary lapse in concentration and it could all be over.
That comes as Ivory coast are free to score a vital layup an easy layup with US number 1 fighting for the rebound three times but he is denied. With just 30 seconds to go the score is 43-39. The Ivory Coast fans are on their feet chanting, dancing, crazy, as a free throw finds the hoop from their number 10. And another. Alles! Alles! 26 seconds 45-39. What can the US do?
A three-point hook shot?! It hangs in the air, shot violation, no dice.
10.3 seconds left. Another free throw for the African’s. The noise is deafening. Ivory Coast knows they have won. 6.9 seconds a foul by US number 21. IC can be heard far and wide – a crescendo of noise. It’s all over! Ivory Coast wins prompting a complete court invasion by fans. Hats, bags, shoes go everywhere.
Finding a higher gear
Due to family circumstances, Shubham Kumar did not attend school until he was 16. Three years ago, he joined the Chetna Sanstha in Bilaspur, India.
Going to school proved to be the catalyst for his success, as he took himself to school on his bicycle, riding nine kilometers from his home. His coach Mr. Sharma observed his inclination toward cycling and started helping him develop his skills. The Special Olympics coaches (Mr. Sharma and Dr. Rajinder Nahata) began preparing Shubham for bigger competitions, and Dr. Rajinder’s encouraged the Himachal Adventure Sports & Tourism Promotion Association to outfit Shubham and the team with professional riding gear and bicycles.
“They were at a disadvantage, just showing up in t-shirts and shorts while all the other riders looked professional. They took great pride in their new gear, it made them feel valued,” he said.
So, from an isolated existence, Shubham has found himself competing on the international stage at the Games with 81 athletes from 14 countries.
“I love to cycle,” he said with a broad smile. “I never knew that something which I used as a way to get places could take me outside of the country and give me the opportunity to represent my country.”
His mother continues to work agricultural jobs, his father left when he was young, and he has a disabled brother so Shubham uses his other talent, his beautiful singing voice, to help support his family. He has such a gorgeous voice that he is hired for special events as a temple singer. Now he will add attending the Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi to his resume – he’s come a long way in three short years.