“Be a hero and share the feeling.” For the 7,000 athletes from 156 countries who came to Ireland for the 11th Special Olympics World Summer Games these were not merely fine and catchy words. It was a cherished motto with which they went to the starting line in 21 kinds of sport and carried it forth, displaying unprecedented courage, adamant will and high spirit. All of them are athletes who are mentally handicapped in one way or another. All in all, there is upwards of a million of such athletes-invalids in the world.
The magnificent ceremony of the opening of the Games at the Dublin Stadium seating 85,000 spectators, which was attended by numerous athletes, 3,000 coaches and 30,000 volunteers, united them all in one international team–Dream Team-2003. This team of dream was greeted by 43 VIPs, including crown wearers from Belgium, Jordan, Liechtenstein, Luxemburg, Uganda, etc.; the founders of the international organization Special Olympics International (SOI) Eunice Kennedy-Shriver and Sargent Shriver; Hollywood stars, volunteer No. 1 Arnold Schwarzenegger and Pierce Brosnan; mega-star of the variety stage John Bon Jovi; the world-famous boxer Mohammed Ali. The honorable mission to open the World Games was granted to Nelson Mandela, ex-president of the Republic of South Africa, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Competing with such celebrated teams as those of the USA (854 athletes), Ireland (436) and Great Britain (193), the national team of Russia, which ranked the 13th in the list of the numerical strength of the participating countries (73 athletes), demonstrated a fine team spirit and impressive results. The athletes of Russia won 107 medals, including 63 gold, 29 silver and 15 bronze medals.
The first gold medal was earned for Russia by Sergei Loginov of Chelyabinsk Region, who, competing in the 100m backstroke, managed to outstrip his four rivals from the USA. The finishing gold touch was put by our volley-ball players who defeated the tournament’s favourites, Finns, in a decisive match.
Russian gymnasts (six participants) demonstrated brilliant performance, winning a total of 22 gold, nine silver and three bronze medals. Aleksei Mikhailov (six gold medals) and Alexander Milishchenya (five gold medals) became overall champions of the Games.
Our bowling masters–Anna Simonova and Aleksei Galkin–also deserve every praise. Vying with such formidable rivals as the national teams of the USA, Japan and Germany, the Russian athletes managed to outplay them, winning five gold medals.
Special mention should also be made of the brilliant results scored by representatives of Russia in badminton, table tennis and the equestrian sport.
In the Russian “silver” track-and-field athletics squad two of its members were included in the category of the most courageous athletes: Sergei Pavlenko of Moscow, who took second place in his first ever full Marathon race (42 km 195 m), and Yekaterina Solosina of Smolensk Region, who won two silver medals in the 400m and 800m races, suffering from an excruciating pain in her knee meniscus throughout the entire competitions.
The Special Olympics World Summer Games Ireland-2003 brought the Russian athletes, who came to Dublin from 19 regions of the country, a fresh taste of victory, a fresh appreciation of a grand sports event for which they had been preparing for four years.