News: Special Olympics: Contenders come aboard station for competition
Story by Cpl. Claudio Martinez
IWAKUNI, Japan - Approximately 75 Special Olympians came out to the Fifth Annual Japanese Special Olympics Sports Day, hosted by Marine Corps Community Services, here Sunday.
Athletes from three prefectures, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi and Kumamoto, overcame their disabilities and competed in three different sports.
Thomas Durning, MCCS athletic director said allowing athletes to choose their own sports lets them overcome their individual disabilities and compete in what they like to do.
Special Olympians were able to choose to compete in soccer, bicycling or disk golf. Disk golf is a sport played with Frisbees, which must be thrown through a raised, vertical hula-hoop. All Special Olympians celebrated together and everyone was a winner.
“The good thing was everyone received medals,” said Mai Tajima, MCCS recreational specialist. “Even the brothers and sisters who helped received their medals.”
Family members and volunteers also participated in the festivities. Station residents and Special Olympians played, helped and learned from each other throughout the event.
“I want people to recognize the friendship,” said Tajima. “They cheered each other on. These athletes don’t know each other. Maybe the Hiroshima people know each other, maybe Yamaguchi or Kumamoto people but they were all playing, talking and laughing [together].”
Athletes and station volunteers gathered to build upon their strong ties during the event.
“There was friendship between American and Japanese. All the participants love to hear English, and they want to be here to hear English, and they don’t get to see you guys very often,” said Tajima.
Many station volunteers were happy they came out to help with the Special Olympics.
Lance Cpl. Jimmy S. Harden, Combat Logistics Company 36 motor transportation operator, volunteered his free time Sunday to help special competitors.
Harden said he had a great time and will be happy to do it again next year.
Tanaka Kunihiro, a Special Olympian from the Kumamoto Prefecture was just one of the many competitors.
Kunihiro said he was nervous about the competition, but had fun and thinks he did well.
October marks the fifth year the Japanese Special Olympics has been hosted here. According to the Special Olympics website, most attitudes towards people with intellectual disabilities are framed by negative stereotypes and misconceptions.
Yet when people see Special Olympics athletes in competition, they realize not just what those with intellectual disabilities can do, but what they themselves can do to build a better world.