Nigeria’s 31-man delegation to the 2017 Special Olympics Winter World Games in Austria was hosted to a rousing reception in Lagos on Tuesday for doing the country proud, winning a total of 20 medals.
The special athletes won gold in Unified Floor Ball and a silver in Floor Hockey, two novel sports they participated in for the first time at the games in Austria.
In all, Special Olympics Nigeria returned to Lagos with 12 gold and eight silver medals.
Speaking at the reception, Chairman of the Board of Special Olympics Nigeria, Victor Osibodu, was full of praises for the athletes.
“We sent a 3-man delegation to Austria to compete at the Special Olympics Winter World Games. We participated in two novel sports – Unified Floor Ball and Floor Hockey.
“Our athletes had an amazing time but didn’t forget to bring home the prize. They won the gold medal in Floor Hockey and Silver Medal in Unified Floor Ball a total of 20medals (12 gold and 8 silver),” stressed Osibodu.
He was full of appreciation for all the family members of the athletes, the coaches, volunteers who dedicated their time and supported their children.
“Special Olympics is special to us and we will always give our best to the athletes to ensure that they are always celebrated,” pledged the SONigeria board chairman.
The Head of the Nigerian Delegation to the Games, Misan Eresanara, revealed that the trip to Austria was a special experience for the special athletes.
“It was two weeks of fun. We had our high moments and low moments when two of our athletes were injured. Thank God the injuries were not so serious as to create panic for our team,” recalled the leader of delegation.
He said that the athletes were Nigeria’s good ambassadors at the Games. “Our athletes were well behaved. They were always together and showed great promise during competition.
For athletes coming from temperate rejoin, the winter weather in Austria was however challenging to them. “Even the food was also a culture shock so to say.”
Despite not having the right equipment to train, the National Director of Special Olympic Nigeria, Naomi Saliu, promised that the athletes are going to do better at the next games slated to hold in Abu Dhabi next year.
One of the athletes, Olatunji Daniel who celebrated his 18th birthday at the Games, told THISDAY that the experience in Austria would remain in his memory for life.
“If anyone had told me before the Games that I will celebrate my birthday in a foreign land, I would have doubted it. But came back with medals to further make me happy.
“We competed against athletes from India, USA, Indonesia, Morocco, etc
“We didn’t have the equipment. We had only two weeks to train with the equipment before we traveled yet were better than athletes from other countries,” concludes the athlete.