Local athletes who will participate in the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games were to depart for the US yesterday, the Sports Affairs Council (SAC) said.
Speaking at a flag presentation ceremony, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) expressed the hope that the athletes would help extend the nation’s people-to-people diplomacy and allow others to better understand Taiwan from a sports perspective.
Though Taiwan does not have an ideal environment to train for the Winter Games, the leader of Taiwan’s delegation, Pai Hsiu-hsiung (白秀雄), said local athletes have been able to hone their skills in places such as beaches to make up for the lack of snow and ice.
The SAC said the 59-member delegation, including 36 young athletes with mental disabilities and 10 coaches, will compete in four events — speed skating, figure skating, snowshoeing and floor hockey — under the name “Chinese Taipei.”
Taiwan won 20 gold, 13 silver and 10 bronze medals in the previous Special Olympics held in the Japanese city of Nagano, the SAC said.
An estimated 2,500 athletes from 85 countries will participate in this year’s competition in Boise, Idaho, from Saturday until next Friday. Alpine skiing, cross-country skiing and snowboarding will also be featured events.
The delegation is set to leave the US next Sunday and to return to Taiwan on Feb. 17, the SAC said.