In the first week of October 2018, the World Championships for people with Down syndrome will be held in Madeira.
Five athletes, medalists of the XXV Polish Championships Sprawni Razem in Athletics won chances for participation in these competitions. In Madeira, they will compete in running, long jumps and shot puts. They are young, promising players between the ages of 14 and 22. On daily basis, they train in the athletics section of Mazowieckie Stowarzyszenie Społeczno-Sportowe Sprawni Razem, under the watchful eye of their coaches – Marcin Pawikowski and Paweł Różański.
The participation of Polish players in the world championships is an unprecedented event. There are few places in Poland where athletes with Down syndrome can train selected disciplines at professional level. In most cases, their sports activities are limited to physical education and rehabilitation classes. Meanwhile, people with this genetic defect, with adequate support and guidance, are able to achieve a high level of training and very good athletic performance.
The players appointed to the representation are the winners of the XXV Polish Championships Sprawni Razem in Athletics, Krakow 2018. Those were the first ever athletics championships in Poland for people with intellectual disabilities, in which athletes with Down Syndrome could participate, starting within a separate category reserved only for them. The creation of this category gave them a chance to qualify for the competition and compete with athletes with similar psychophysical limitations. Now they want to face the best athletes with Down syndrome from other countries.
Change the awareness
The Poles’ trip to the world championships has one more important goal. It’s about changing the perception of people with intellectual disabilities. Showing their successes and athletic performance, which for most non-disabled people are out of reach, will change the perception of the Down syndrome. Players, their parents and trainers, want to break the stereotype that dominates the public opinion and encourage other disabled people to practice competitive sports.
The coaches and caregivers, who together with the competitors participated in the last year’s European Championships of people with Down Syndrome in Portugal and this year’s INAS European Championship in Paris, got convinced that this is possible.
“The level of participants of those competitions is really impressive” – says Łukasz Głasek, president of Mazowieckie Stowarzyszenie Społeczno-Sportowe Sprawni Razem, the initiator of introducing a separate category for sportsmen with Down syndrome in Poland. “Every time I ask trainers from other countries how they achieve such great results, I can hear in response: training, training, training. Their players train like people without disabilities in results-oriented sports schools and clubs. They work using professional training methods. I dream of creating such conditions for athletes with Down syndrome in Poland.”
The representation of the World Cup for people with Down syndrome consists of three girls and two boys. Magdalena Dąbrowska and Zofia Dzięcioł are experienced – despite young age (16 and 14 years old) – athletes specializing in running and long jump, who last year brought home gold and silver medals from the European Championships in Portugal, and this year won medals at the Polish Championships in Krakow. Zuzanna Szymańska is a gold medalist in shot put at the Polish Championships in Krakow in 2018. The men were Dominik Ulatowski – Polish champion in the 400 m race and Mikołaj Woźniak – Polish champion in the long jump.
They want to win together
Preparation and participation in the world championships requires investment. Last year’s trip of female athletes Magdalena Dąbrowska and Zofia Dzięcioł to the European Championships in Portugal was financed by their parents and the trainer. The girls won four medals there. This is why this year coaches and caregivers decided to increase the headcount of the Polish national team. A trip to the championships will be preceded by intensified preparations – stationary training cycles and a sports camp with the support of trainers, physiotherapists and a caregiver. During the championships, the whole team will be supplied with appropriate equipment and representative outfits. The costs of the camp, outfits, flights and entry fees exceed the possibilities of parents and associations, therefore the applications for co-financing were directed to potential sponsors and public institutions, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Polish National Foundation. Anyone who would like to support the initiative individually can also transfer any amount to the fundraiser held at: https://zrzutka.pl/madera2018 or directly to the account of Mazowieckie Stowarzyszenie Społeczno-Sportowe Sprawni Razem: 96150019111219103464430000, with the title: MŚ Madera 2018 – darowizna.
The organizers of the World Cup for people with Down syndrome are: Sports Union for Athletes with Down Syndrome (SU-DS) in collaboration with the Portuguese Sports Association for Intellectual Development (ANDDI-Portugal), International Athletic Association for Persons with Down Syndrome (IAADS), International Basketball Association for Down Syndrome (IBA 21) and the International Table Tennis Association for Down Syndrome (ITTADS).
Łukasz Głasek, the President of Mazowieckie Stowarzyszenie Społeczno-Sportowe Sprawni Razem with the support of Fundacja Sportu Osób Niepełnosprawnych Intelektualnie (SONI), has undertaken to organize the participation of the Polish national team.
Contact and additional information:
Łukasz Głasek, mobile: 509 120 136 (President of Mazowieckie Stowarzyszenie Społeczno-Sportowe Sprawni Razem)
Paulina Gadomska-Dzięcioł, mobile: 501 241 557 (Fundacja Sportu Osób Niepełnosprawnych Intelektualnie)