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Monerís Special Olympics a Resounding Success

Special OlympicsOn 22nd May, the first ever Special Olympics competition for equitation in the Algarve was held at Pinetrees Riding Centre in Almancil. Special Olympics representative Pedro Serra complimented the organisers and participants for its fantastic planning and competition in the true spirit of the Special Olympics.

Competitor Francisco Silva with his instructor Bruno CavalinhoFaro charity A.A.P.A.C.D.M. (Associação Algarvia de Pais e Amigos de Crianças Diminuídos Mentais), chaired by Cândida Pereira, together with associations in Almancil, Loulé and Lagos, worked tirelessly in advance of the event and their efforts resulted in a virtually glitch-free event. In the small arena, decorated with large paper flowers made by the students of A. E. school in Almancil, catering students from these schools prepared and served a hot lunch to the nearly 200 competitors, families, volunteers and guests in attendance.

Sr. Aníbal Moreno, spokesman for the major sponsor Grupo Monerís, praised everyone involved. He and his team chatted with visitors throughout the event. Regional supermarket chain Algartalhos generously provided the food and serving materials from their new store opposite the Almancil football stadium; the Loulé Câmara loaned tables, chairs and sound equipment and also provided the special bright blue t-shirts worn by the riders.

The awards ceremony was the icing on the cake with cheers, hugs and huge smiles. As in the Special Olympic ethic, all 31 competitors at the event were winners, and awarded a medal, with those in gold, silver and bronze positions specifically recognised on the podium. Each rider was also presented with a photograph astride his mount by António and Manuel Pires of Foto Estúdio Almancil. A special competitor was Carolina Túbal from Lisbon; she is part of the team that will represent Portugal at the World Special Olympics in Los Angeles later this year.

It was a perfect day, sunny with a slight breeze. The day started bright and early as each rider’s skills were assessed, with riders divided into categories to compete with other riders with similar skills. Judge António Salgado and assistant Kaija Sorjonen were responsible for the ‘divisioning’, while Kathryn Watson, assisted by Sabine Stohler, judged the medal competition. João Moura served as the event announcer and the Loulé Bombeiros were on hand as well. Other dignitaries included Hugo Nunes, Vice President of the Loulé Câmara and Comandante Silva Gomes from the GNR.

Special recognition and enormous thanks go to Beverley Gibbons and team of Pinetrees; she devoted innumerable hours to the organisation of the event and also donated the use of her premises, staff and horses. Volunteers from Algarve Riding Therapy and Riding for the Disabled Barlavento used their regular weekly riding sessions for many weeks to train for the event.

The teamwork and camaraderie amongst all involved will carry forward to any and all future such events. Loulé Câmara representative Hugo Nunes said he would like to see Algarve Câmaras working together to promote more sporting events organised for the disabled.

Group photo of all associated with the organization of the event

Photos by António Pires at Foto Estúdio Almancil.

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