Special Olympics Australia Sailability Team need help for World Games

Special Olympics Australia Sailing athletes enjoying Adelaide Waters in the 2010 competition - 2010 Sailability competition at IX National Special Olympics Australia Games
Alex McNeilly
Special Olympics Australia transforms the lives of children and adults with an intellectual disability through year-round sports training, sports participation and competition in a variety of team and individual sports. Sailing is becoming a very popular sport and will continue to grow as we work with Sailability to offer more opportunities to get our athletes out on the water and sailing with pride, smiles and most of all improving health and skills.

All people with an intellectual disability are welcome to participate. It doesn't matter whether they want to have fun in their local community or aspire to compete in international competition. We cater for all needs.

Through our quality sports program, athletes train and compete with people of similar ability and are supported by accredited coaches familiar with their needs.

On a national level we offer fourteen official sports, One of which is sailing.

Last April 900 athletes competed at our IX National Special Olympics Australia Games, it was an amazing games especially the sailing. One of our best stories that came out of the games is below.

Ben Walter - Sailing inspires my whole team by Roger Christie.

Young South Australian prodigy Ben Walter is a little unique in sailing circles. In his coach's words, Ben is the inspiration for the entire South Australian team - no mean feat for an eleven year old. Having faced numerous challenges in his life thus far, sailing is the one time where Ben is in his element and he couldn't be more excited about sailing being involved in the National Games for the first ever time.

However, while many of the athletes are feeling their way and sussing out the competition, Ben has only one thing on his mind - overtaking his unified partner and father, Shane, in the family trophy tally. 'Dad reckons I'll beat his tally these Games. We're five-all at the moment after I won the State Championship so now's my chance!' Ben said. 'I'm not even sure why I allowed him to compete,' his father Shane quickly and regrettably replies.

Though it is all fun and games for the father-son combination and Shane's clearly proud of his son's accomplishments in six years of sailing. Asked whether he feels they have an unfair advantage given their intimate understanding of one another, Shane simply smiles and says, 'Some people might say we have an unfair advantage.'

Ben's coach, John Johnson, has been sailing for 40 years, including 12 years in the Sailability program, and is particularly proud of the team he's established for their first National Games. While they have set themselves high expectations, John is simply content with the fact that the team is here and ready to go. In his eyes, the program has been an amazing success already and it's only early stages. 'I saw the advantages and the pleasure that athletes were getting out of competition and they were all getting a hell of a lot more out than we were putting in. The grins are literally from ear to ear,' John said.

John is the President of Sailability in South Australia and a member of the National Board and has seen some wonderful transformations. 'We've welcomed in people who used to be scared of water and now they are confident enough to hop in and take charge.'

And, for the record, Ben and Shane claimed a third placing in the second of the day's races and are looking forward to further success over the next few days and who knows might one day even sail for Australia!

To all our sailing fans and friends, please dig deep and ensure our Eight (8) very excited and lucky Aussie sailability athletes can represent Australia at the upcoming June 2011 Special Olympics World Games in Athens, Greece.

We need to raise $80,000 AUS dollars by 31st May 2011 to get them to the games so they can sail and achieve their PERSONAL BEST. Please help them and make a tax deductible donation on our website. All donations can be made to Team Australia at www.specialolympics.com.au or phone 02 8116 9833.