SPECIAL OLYMPICS: THE South and East Cheshire team is looking to extend an impressive record in the UK Special Olympics over the coming days.
In 1997, 32 members took part in the games at Portsmouth, returning with national champions in six sports. Four years later, 22 competitors captured a haul of 60 gold, silver and bronze medals in Cardiff.
The largest ever South and East Cheshire Olympic team will set off for Glasgow on Friday, gunning for glory in the biggest single sporting event in Britain since the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002.
The 33-strong squad, backed by a team of 12 coaches, will be among 2,500 competitors with learning disabilities from 19 regional teams. The week-long event, from Saturday until Friday July 8, will be held at 11 different venues in Scotland's second city.
All the team members are drawn from the boroughs of Crewe and Nantwich, Congleton and Macclesfield. They train at the nationally renowned Cheshire Academy of Integrated Sport and Arts, at Macon Way, Crewe. Founded in 1993, it provides opportunities in 10 different sports for individuals with physical, sensory and learning disabilities.
South and East Cheshire has children and adults taking part in six of the 23 sports, having qualified through their regional champion-ship.
They are boccia, football, artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics and wheelchair rhythmic gymnastics, table tennis and MATP (motor activities training programme, for the profoundly disabled).
Academy co-director Jane Whet-nall said: 'We have the largest individual entry to these games, in terms of the number of sports and number of competitors.
'The academy has expertise in a whole range of sports. We are confident that with all our hard work and efforts, these athletes have a wonderful opportunity to show that we rank with the best in Great Britain.'
The Special Olympic Games will have all the trappings expected of the mainstream Olympic Games. There will be a national torch run over 1,700 miles through every region of the UK.
There will be opening and closing ceremonies, an athletes' village at Scotstoun, more than 1,500 volunteers as well as almost 1,000 coaches and 3,000 families, friends and supporters involved.
Academy co-director Iain Chalmers said: 'Not only is our team one of the largest, it is also one of the youngest. Six years ago we took a conscious decision to focus on developing young talent.
'We are constantly striving to develop sporting talent in younger children with disabilities. Teaching correct techniques and practices at a young age means that they will continue to have a long future in disability sport.
'More than 88% of our athletes are under 18. It is wonderful how passionate and keen these young men and women are. Their confidence and excitement is contagious and I have no doubt that they will do us all proud.'
For further information, or to offer sponsorship, contact Iain Chalmers on 01270 255355, or contact Kath Shenton on 01270 584956. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.