It might seem that the Olympics only focuses on people at the peak of perfection, and those with either physical or intellectual disabilities are excluded. But nothing could be further from the truth. There are two different organisations that focus on athletes with disabilities – the Special Olympics and the Paralympics.

The most basic difference between the Special Olympics and Paralympics is the fact that while the former is only aimed at people with intellectual disabilities, the latter is mainly conducted for athletes with physical disabilities, but can include some intellectually disabled individuals.

One of our Sunfield Residents, Lindy Nupen, represented WP in the “ intellectually impaired” games and South Africa in the Down Syndrome games in Durban, Taiwan and Ireland.

Another resident, Johan Versfeld also took part in the Special Olympics representing South Africa in swimming.

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The Story of the Special Olympics

In June 1962, the sister of President Kennedy, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, started a summer day camp for mentally challenged children at her home in Rockville, Maryland. The Kennedy foundation subsequently promoted the creation of dozens of similar camps in the United States and Canada, and special awards were developed for physical achievements. By 1968 Shriver had persuaded the Chicago Park District to join with the Kennedy Foundation in sponsoring a ‘Special Olympics’ to be held at Soldier Field in July.

About 1,000 athletes from 26 US states and Canada participated. The games were such a success that the Special Olympics International was founded with chapters in the United States, Canada, and France.

The first Special Olympics World Winter Games were held in February 1977 in Colorado. Eventually the organisation grew to develop chapters in nearly 200 countries. Today, more than one million athletes participate annually in some 20,000 meets and tournaments held worldwide, culminating in the international Special Olympics World Games every two years, alternating between winter and summer sports and each lasting for nine days.

The Special Olympics

  • Inaugurated in 1968, the Special Olympics was officially recognised by the International Olympic Committee on February 15, 1988.
  • With headquarters in Washington D.C. the Special Olympics happens year-round in seven regions of the world, encompassing over 170 countries and has more than 220 programmes operating daily to provide empowerment through 32 Olympic-type sports.
  • Special Olympics welcomes all athletes with intellectual disabilities, (ages 8 and older) of all ability levels, to train and compete in over 30 Olympic-type sports.

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  • To be eligible to participate in the Special Olympics, athletes must have an intellectual disability; a cognitive delay, or a development disability involving functional limitations in both general learning and adaptive skills. (They may also have a physical disability.)
  • Special Olympics believes deeply in the power of sports to help all who participate to fulfil their potential. For Special Olympics athletes, excellence is a personal achievement, a reflection of reaching one’s maximum potential – a goal to which everyone can aspire.
  • The Special Olympics has become a global movement leading the world of sport for people with intellectual disabilities and is focused on building a worldwide network of athletes of all ability levels who compete in sports, while creating communities of leaders committed to inclusion, acceptance, and dignity for all.

The Paralympics

Since the late 20th century the Paralympics have been held in the same city that hosts the corresponding Olympic Games; the Paralympics follow shortly after the Olympics conclude.
The Paralympics welcome athletes from six main disability categories: amputee, cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, visually impaired, spinal injuries and certain others.

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The Paralympics developed after Sir Ludwig Guttmann organised a sports competition for British World War II veterans with spinal cord injuries in England in 1948. In 1960 the first quadrennial Olympic-style Games for disabled athletes were held in Rome; the quadrennial Winter Games were added in Sweden in 1976.

Today, the Paralympics are about elite performance sport, where athletes go through a stringent qualification process so that the best, or highest qualified based on performance, can compete at the Games. Within each group, athletes are further divided into classes on the basis of the type and extent of their disabilities.

The size and diversity of the Paralympic Games have increased greatly over the years. The Paralympics in 1960 hosted 400 athletes from 23 countries participating in eight sports. Just over 50 years later, at the 2012 Summer Paralympics in London, more than 4,200 athletes representing 164 countries, participated in 20 sports.

The story of Sunfield Home

Thirty One years ago, Chris and Lynne Bennett, parents of a young girl with Down Syndrome, pursued their dream of establishing a home for their daughter and other intellectually disabled young adults in the Western Cape. Together with other parents, they founded the Sunfield Home in Wellington, providing a loving and nurturing environment for over 104 residents and day-care adult individuals.

Each individual is screened to evaluate their strengths and allocate activities according to their abilities. A protective workshop has been established where contract work is undertaken, as well as arts and crafts activities. An employment scheme has also been developed and as a result permanent and successful positions have been found within the surrounding wine and cheese industries.

Find out more about us at: www.sunfieldhome.co.za