Special Olympics team set for Games

WINTER CHILL::At a farewell ceremony, both President Ma Ying-jeou and sports officials spoke of the difficulty facing athletes unused to South Korea’s frigid conditions

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 - Page 4

A 60-strong team is to leave for Pyeongchang, South Korea, tomorrow to participate in the Special Olympics World Games after being presented with a team flag by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday.

The Ministry of Education’s Sports Administration hosted the flag-presentation ceremony.

Ma told the team that it was not easy to train athletes from a subtropical zone to compete in winter sports, and to train athletes with disabilities from a subtropical zone to compete in winter sports was almost an impossible mission. The spirit of the Special Olympics was to be brave and to try to win, he said.

He also recounted helping raise funds for the nation’s 1996 Paralympics Summer Games team to go to Atlanta, Georgia.

He said that many Taiwanese going to see the Games were in tears when they saw Taiwan’s flag rise when team members won medals.

Sports Administration Director-General Ho Jow-fei (何卓飛) said this year’s Games would test the athletes’ strength and their ability to adapt to the environment, adding that the level of challenge becomes higher if they are to compete in an environment with temperatures below 15oC.

Ho said that the training process was not easy for the athletes either, but that helped build their confidence and endurance.

The Sports Administration said more than 2,300 athletes from 120 countries are set to compete in Pyeongchang from Tuesday to Feb. 5.

Taiwanese athletes are set to compete in snowshoeing, figure-skating, short-track speed skating and floor hockey.

Chiu Yi-chen (邱怡臻), who is on the snowshoeing team, said her legs were sore because she had to run back and forth on the beach many times.

“It was really tough,” Chiu said.

Chuang Yao-chou (莊耀州) trained the snowshoeing team. He said the team had to train by snowshoeing on a beach.

“The training was tough in the summer time because the sand was steaming hot,” Chuang said.

To help the athletes adjust to South Korea’s cold weather, Chuang said his team trained on a beach in Jinshan District (金山), New Taipei City (新北市), when the northeast monsoon was at its strongest.

Many of the coaches are special education teachers, he said, adding that the athletes worked hard and used the Internet to inform their coaches of their progress when training on their own.