<I>"I'll find me a pot of gold!"</I> said delighted US sailing athlete John KRIZ when he found out he was travelling to Ireland to participate in the 2003 Special Olympics World Games, and he wasn't just talking about a gold medal.
John has arrived with his friend Chad ENGLISH as part of the Southern California / San Diego delegation and part of Special Olympics going back to 1963. Chad is one of the younger generation of athletes and only began sailing four years ago when their local sailing club advertised in the Special Olympics newsletter as part of a government scheme to encourage sailing within the special games activities.
Chad's mum Cindy ENGLISH summed up the journey all athletes have travelled in one way or another. ''Chad normally hates heights, hates crowds and is not a big hugger. And there he was, standing on a chair screaming and dancing and hugging his coach!.
''Watching them march in to the centre of the stadium was a very proud moment for us and we're just so looking forward to watching them enjoy themselves over the competition,"
Commodore Aengus O'BROACHAIN of the Royal St George Yacht Club said it was a pity that Ireland had no sailing delegation at these Games because there are currently no sailing facilities for people with learning disabilities Change is on the way. One of the most exciting results from this international sailing competition is the fact that facilities will commence in Ireland to provide sailing opportunities for people with learning disabilities. ''It may even be possible for an Irish delegation to compete in the next World Games,"
he said.The Royal St Yacht Club is determined to be at the coalface of this increased level of sporting opportunity for people with disabilities.
"When we were asked by the World Games to host the venue for the sailing competition, we were absolutely thrilled,''
said the Commodore. "But over the last four years as everyone at the club has worked hard to make sure everything runs smoothly, it has always been a sad point that no Irish athletes will be taking part."
As a result, the Club has fundraised through its members to establish a bursary to begin training and opportunities for Irish Special Olympics sailing.
Sailing started yesterday and continues until Friday - Results will be posted here as soon as they become available.