Special Olympics event a first for Algarve

A “resounding success” is how organisers described the Algarve’s first-ever Special Olympics competition for equitation, held at Pinetrees Riding Centre in Almancil on May 22.

The day started bright and early as each rider’s skills were assessed, with riders divided into categories to compete with others of similar skills. Judge António Salgado and assistant Kaija Sorjonen were responsible for dividing the categories, while Kathryn Watson, assisted by Sabine Stohler, judged the medal competition.

João Moura served as the event announcer and Loulé Bombeiros were on hand as well. Other dignitaries included Hugo Nunes, Loulé deputy mayor, and Commander Silva Gomes from the GNR police.

Special Olympics representative Pedro Serra complimented organisers and participants for the event’s planning and competition in the true spirit of the sport.

He said that Faro charity AAPACDM (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”.

Aníbal Moreno, spokesman for the major sponsor Grupo Moneris, praised everyone involved, while deputy mayor of Loulé Hugo Nunes said he would like to see Algarve municipalities working together to promote more sporting events organised for the disabled.

The awards ceremony was the icing on the cake with “cheers, hugs and huge smiles”. All 31 competitors were winners and awarded a medal, although gold, silver and bronze positions were specially recognised on the podium.

A special competitor was Carolina Túbal from Lisbon, who is part of the team that will represent Portugal at the World Special Olympics in Los Angeles later this year.

Organisers also thanked Beverley Gibbons at Pinetrees who donated the use of their premises, staff and horses.