Gymnasts shift focus after National Games postponement

A LEADING figure for disabled sport in Jersey believes athletes will still have ample opportunities to thrive in 2021, despite the postponement of Special Olympics GB’s National Summer Games.

Jessica Vieira was one of four Islanders to represent Team GB at the Special Olympics World Games in 2019
Jessica Vieira was one of four Islanders to represent Team GB at the Special Olympics World Games in 2019

Paul Patterson MBE, the chairman of Jersey Sports Association for the Disabled, says organisers had ‘little choice’ when it came to the status of next year’s multi-sport showpiece in Liverpool due to ongoing concerns over safety, particularly as all local and regional qualifiers planned for 2020 have been cancelled due to Covid-19. However, there is hope that current disappointment will make way for positivity when the Island’s best adjust to new training regimes.

The National Games acts as a qualifier for the Special Olympics World Games – a global event which brought great success for Jersey in 2019, when four gymnasts returned home from Abu Dhabi with 21 medals between them.

‘The organisers had very little choice but to postpone – and that is the key word, postpone, not cancel,’ said Patterson.

‘One of the key issues is that in order to attend the National Summer Games athletes are expected to do a number of local competitions – or in Jersey’s case regional competitions – to qualify. None of those have taken place and no training is happening locally.’

Special Olympics GB said their decision was largely based on the ‘heightened risk’ to disabled athletes and they have promised to investigate new dates with organisers in Liverpool.

Patterson added: ‘Jersey had named a squad of eight gymnasts and three coaches for the National Summer Games and they had been accepted and deposits paid. The organisers are returning the deposits and hopefully the event can still take place – I would suspect a year later.

‘I have received a note from the head coach of the Jersey Special Gymnastic Club and it is clear that her squad is going to be upset by the news, but in the same token it is going to give them an opportunity to understand the new normal and what is going to be safe when they get back to training.

‘All disabled sport is suspended at the moment. We would have been involved in the Jersey half-marathon on 7 June and our involvement in the main marathon [4 October] is also now cancelled unfortunately.

‘My view was and remains that we will be back to disabled sport when it is safe and right to do that.’

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