When we do something of service to others in this world, sometimes the payback is not always immediately realized. Not so at the Special Olympics World Games held this past week in venues all over Southern California.
Having been a part of the Opening ceremonies and at the Power Lifting venue at the L.A.Convention Center, I saw up close and personal (Special) athletes from over sixty countries embrace this opportunity to travel and compete with a gracious, humble and joy filled attitude throughout all the nine days of competition. Of course there were a few problems that we all had to overcome, such as awards delays, on one day as long as three hours. Yet not once did I ever see even a hint of frustration on any of the competitors faces ever.
We coaches and volunteers did all the heavy lifting in that category. My fondest recollection of the Games was that of a young Iraqi power lifter who every time he came on to the stage to complete his event, he would pause and lift his clasped hands over head in a joyous celebratory move that a boxer might do after
winning his fight by a knockout. Always to the roars of delight from the crowd. So on this past Thursday he came in as his name was announced, did his usual power wave and approached the bar for his lift. These power lifting events are run by certified Olympic advisers and they take their work very seriously. So as our guy grabs the bar, he prematurely lifts the weights off the carpet a few inches and unfortunately, he had not waited to be given the go ahead by the judges causing his immediate disqualification from the event. Everyone in the venue let out a loud groan of disappointment, his coach tried to appeal to the technical judges with no success. There was a palpable tension in the air as if sub-consciously we all were hoping the judges would re consider and give him another shot at the lift.
As it finally became clear to our athlete that it was over for him, in his usual routine as always he stood straight up, clasped his hands thrusting them overhead as if he had just taken the gold medalwith a bigger smiley smile then he had ever smiled before. The roar from the crowd was thunderous and even the stiff necked Olympic Judges couldn’t stop from smiling and then some laughing with joy having been touched by this beautiful young mans spirit.
We all were witnesses to the best part of ourselves in this simple display of happiness and joy from this young man who lives in a war torn country, so grateful to be participating in life and in these Special World Games.
On behalf of all the volunteers and coaches I worked with as well as all the beautiful athletes, many thanks to Maria, Tim and Bobby Shriever for keeping these Special Olympics World Games alive in honor of your amazing Mother Eunice. I’m sure she’s very proud of you and all the great stories that will emerge from this past week.
Felix Schmittdiel is a Santa Monica resident.