AN EXHAUSTED but elated group of Trinidad and Tobago athletes returned home from the 14th Special Olympic Games in Los Angeles, California, United States, yesterday, to a cheering group of supporters, including relatives as well as members of the Special Olympics Trinidad and Tobago (SOTT).
In total, Trinidad and Tobago amassed 48 medals — 15 gold, nine silver and 24 bronze, at the 2015 edition.
Yesterday afternoon, at the Piarco International Airport, the first of two groups arrived — participants in aquatics, basketball, powerlifting and track and field. One of the athletes who returned home was 18- year-old powerlifter Nicholas McKnight, a resident of San Juan.
McKnight collected four medals at the Games — a silver (male bench press) and three bronze (male dead lift, male combination and male squat lift).
“I gave it my all,” said McKnight yesterday. “I just wanted to come back with something and make my mother proud. And I just went out there and made myself proud, just to do something for mummy.” Admitting it was his first Special Olympic Games, McKnight noted, “I just said to myself I’ll hold my head up, pray to God and go out there and do my best”.
However, he was hard on himself when asked about his overall display.
“The performance was a little low but I made myself do the best that I could,” he said.
Candilla Berment-Harper, head of delegation for the team and the chairperson of the Special Olympics Trinidad and Tobago (SOTT), was also pleased with the returns from the TT squad.
“The experience was very good,” she commented. “It was more for the athletes and not for me. This (was) my tenth year taking a team to the World Games. They performed extremely well.” She emphasised,“the experience for them is really something that they will cherish. It helps them to socialise a lot more, it helps them to deal with their peers. They make friends (and) they enjoy themselves.” Asked what memories stood out for her at the Games, Berment-Harper replied, “many moments I would say. You can’t pinpoint one particular (moment). Just the fact that the athletes performed so well, that is our moment.” The TT basketball team finished third at the Games, defeating Japan in the third-place playoff.
Coach Ronald De Silva pointed out, “we came out very successful, (with) the bronze. We could have done better but we had some shooting problems in one of the games, which we lost.
That put us in the bronze medal (match).” But he was satisfied with the efforts shown by his players.
“What I put them through in the last six months, they really delivered and we came out with a medal in the end,” said De Silva. “And they enjoyed it.
“We had a great time. Many of these kids, it’s the first time they have been on a plane, in a different country.” De Silva made a plea for some of his players to be used in either the national men’s league teams or in school teams.
“Many of these athletes we have, they are not included in the ‘normal’ games that we have,” he stated. “I think there are couple of guys on my team that could be put on a second division or a third division, or a school team. Many of them do not get that opportunity, and the ‘normal’ kids really do not understand them.”