Fri | Sep 24, 2021

‘Give it your all and be brave’ - Atkinson named Champion Ambassador of the Special Olympics Movement

Published:Friday | December 4, 2020 | 12:23 AMKeisha Hill/Senior Gleaner Writer

Swimming sensation and Olympian Alia Atkinson has been named as Champion Ambassador of the Special Olympics Movement, as the organisation commemorated International Day of Persons with Disabilities, recognised each year on December 3.

Atkinson will serve as the first competing Olympic athlete with such a role in the Caribbean, and has pledged her support to ensuring the public, both in the Caribbean and worldwide, appreciate the grit, perseverance, and courage demonstrated by these athletes with different abilities.

“The role of Champion Ambassador for Special Olympics defines the power of real purpose,” Atkinson said. “Special Olympics athletes meet the challenge each day to realise their full potential, and I’m honoured to have the chance to learn from them, and to share our experiences together as we strive for inclusion for those with intellectual disabilities.”

Atkinson has not only represented Jamaica, but has represented the dreams and aspirations of athletes all across the world. Through her performances, she has propelled an entire population forward, one that is often denied more than access to the pool, but access to quality care, education, and employment.

“The sport of aquatics has moulded me into the person I am today. It has motivated me to want to be a positive example, both for myself and for others. More than anything, swimming has helped me build character, discipline, and sportsmanship,” Atkinson added.

“Sports fills a powerful role in empowering people who live on the margins of their communities. Sport has shown me, as it has shown the athletes of Special Olympics, that there are ups and downs in life, but through the lessons that swimming provides, we can and will persevere. No one knows this better than Special Olympics athletes,” she added.

Atkinson takes the role of Champion Ambassador at a critical time in history. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the deep vulnerability that individuals with intellectual disabilities face in the Caribbean and worldwide.

Given the fact that many individuals with intellectual disabilities have underlying health conditions, this population has witnessed a disproportionate, negative, and often fatal impact resulting from the pandemic.

With over 6,000,000 participating athletes in the global organisation in over 190 nations and territories, Special Olympics represents the largest grassroots sports organisation for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

With over 30 Olympic-type sports offered, together with delivering access to health, education and early childhood development services, Special Olympics is poised for tremendous growth internationally, and is keen to harness the transformative power of Atkinson’s new role.

“We are honoured that Alia has decided to pledge her support to these extraordinary athletes. The time is now for the world to wake up to the power that results from empowering Special Olympics athletes to achieve their best on and off the field of play, and Alia is the perfect ambassador to help us achieve this much-needed public and social awareness,” said Lorna Bell, executive director of Special Olympics Caribbean.

Atkinson’s message to the athletes of Special Olympics is: “Continue to love what you do; continue to work hard, give it your all. Be brave. Always strive to do the best you can, and that way, you will always succeed.”