May 13, 2006 – There were no losers, only winners at the 29th annual Special Olympics held at the St. Croix Alumina complex Saturday.
And the broad smiles on each of the athletes' faces told the story — it was simply fun.
For 5-year-old Angelo Winston it was a time to show off just how fast he was, even though he was racing against himself. Event director Janice Lee said that 15 other athletes registered for that race but in the end they didn't take part.
The Special Olympics are open to athletes ages 6 to adult.
"I like to take part," Angelo, who's been deaf since birth, said through his mother, Vicky Winston, using sign language.
It was Angelo's third time as a Special Olympian, and his mother said that he could hardly wait to get going this year.
"He looks forward to it from the time he's given the notice from school," she said. "This morning he was up at 4:30 raring to go."
Since Angelo couldn't hear, volunteer starter Stu Stevens set aside the starter's gun and used his hands instead. Angelo knew to take off once Stevens' hand came down – and take off he did, smiling all the way to the finish line.
Winston said she is grateful for people like Lee and the dedicated supporters who help with the event each year.
"I think it's great what they do and more parents with children with disabilities should be here," she said.
Lee said that about 65 athletes, including some from St. Thomas, participated at this year's Special Olympics. The athletes took part in basketball, standing long jump, softball throw, 50- and 100-meter dashes, 25-meter wheelchair race, 25-meter walk and tennis ball throw.
Calvin Santiago, 21, beat three other athletes and walked away with three gold medals in the weightlifting competition held Friday night at America's Paradise Gym in Estate Golden Rock. He lifted 225 pounds in the bench press, 415 pounds in the dead lift, and 335 in the squat competition.
The wheelchair race featured two males — Fitzroy Joseph, Kevin Powell – and one female, Libby Ledesma.
The three, whose physical disability included not being able to move one of their arms, used the other to move the wheelchair, sometimes with a little nudge from adults whenever they stopped.
"Push! Push!" came the chants from other athletes and adults, including St. Croix Administrator Gregory Francis and Sen. Juan Figueroa-Serville, who were on hand.
In the end, Joseph, 26, placed first and like a true sportsman, stayed near the finish line urging Ledesma and Powell on. Joseph said he felt good winning. Powell placed second and Ledesma third.
Joseph and Powell also won gold and silver respectively in the softball and tennis ball throws.
Soon the chants from the adults and supporters changed to "Don't Stop. Don't Stop" as 9-year-old Janeek Prince, who walks with the aid of crutches gleefully made it across the finish line. She was one of three athletes who took part in the 25-meter walk event.
"I feel good," Janeek said of winning. "I always feel good."
It was her second year participating, she said, and she won back then, too.
On Saturday, unlike many of the parents who were there because their children were participating, Manasseh Jacobs, was where he wanted to be.
"This is my third year coming out to support the athletes," he said from his shady perch under a tree. "I think they enjoy this activity and look forward to taking part, just look at the smiles on the runners' faces. They run for joy."
Jacobs also praised the volunteers. "The ones who are here are great, but they could use more; and more people should be here supporting them," he said. "This should be a huge event."
Prior to the event, Lee had each athlete repeat the Special Olympic pledge, which read: "Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."
There were many brave athletes whose attempt at doing what many sometimes take for granted gave them pure joy.
Results of all the events will be released by Sunday.
This year's games were dedicated posthumously to Special Olympic volunteers and supporters Richard Bell, Marjorie Bachoo, Victoria Vidal Thompson, Robin Bachoo, and Joe Potter.
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