Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline punctuates the air as Germany welcomes Jamaica's Special Olympians – Jamaica Observer

HEIDELBERG, Germany — Special Olympics Jamaica’s (SOJ’s) badminton coach Joseph Clarke says he is pleased with the warm welcome the delegation has been receiving since arriving in Frankfurt on Monday, ahead of the World Summer Games.
After athletes and staff landed in Frankfurt they made the approximately 50-mile trip south by bus to Heidelberg, a city located on the river Neckar in the state of Baden-Württemberg.
“Well, after 38 hours on the road from we set out Sunday morning in Jamaica, we received the most amazing reception from the people in Frankfurt, from we arrived at the airport. At the host town we had the two mayors and others greeting us.
“It has just been wonderful. They had a band that performed for us and it was wonderful moving to the beat of Neil Diamond (Sweet Caroline), and everyone really enjoyed it,” Clarke said.
The Jamaicans are scheduled to spend three nights in Heidelberg for the Host Town Programme which features cross-cultural exchanges with locals. Thereafter, they are set to head north to Berlin for the June 17 start of the Special Olympics World Summer Games.
The Jamaicans are slated to compete in athletics, men’s unified football (seven-a-side), women’s football (seven-a-side), swimming, badminton and unified volleyball.
Clarke said he expects badminton players Kyle Ford and Travis Ebanks to leave their mark when the competition kicks in.
While Ford is a newcomer on the global stage, Ebanks is seasoned, having medalled at the most recent edition in the United Arab Emirates four years ago.
“The team has been working hard for several months but they had also been doing good work under the previous coach [Terry Walker],” the coach told the Jamaica Observer.
“Travis, the unified partner, competed in the previous Summer Games in Abu Dhabi so we are hoping that his experience will be able to assist Kyle, our special athlete. It is Kyle’s first time, a new experience for him, so it could be overwhelming but he has been so excited about the whole thing.
“Kyle is highly motivated and he shows up to every training so we are looking forward to them doing well. But the most important thing is that they enjoy the Games — and I know they will make very good ambassadors for Jamaica,” he said.
Forde is set to compete in the singles event while the two will partner for unified doubles competition.
Through sport activities and competition the Special Olympics International movement aims to break down barriers that exclude people with intellectual disabilities, such as autism and Down’s syndrome, from mainstream society.
The unified sports programme, a focus of the Special Olympics movement, combines people with intellectual disabilities and those without disabilities in training and competition.
Special Olympics Jamaica won a record 33 medals at the 2019 World Summer Games in the United Arab Emirates, after tallying 29 at the 2015 global event in Los Angeles, United States.
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