Special Olympics is coming to Ipswich - Get involved on March 19

People with learning disabilities are being encouraged to spearhead a new Ipswich-based Special Olympics group which is predicted to spread county-wide.

Suffolk is one of a handful of UK counties not to be part of the Special Olympics Great Britain umbrella – a community-based body run by volunteers which provides year-long sporting opportunities for people with learning disabilities.

Athletics, swimming, football, gymnastics and bowls are the five most popular and widely available sports but the nationwide movement, which has over 900 clubs, also provides a vast range of others including badminton, boccia, cycling, equestrian and powerlifting.

Special Olympics Ipswich wants to hear from people of any ability, aged six and upwards (though you must be at least eight for competition) interested in playing a particular sport, as well as volunteers and sports coaches. A committee meeting will be held at Ipswich Sports Club on March 19 at 7pm.

“The Special Olympics is not just for elite athletes, it is about providing year-long sport at community level and being able to see people develop at both a sporting and personal level,” said Suffolk-based Murton Mann, Special Olympics Great Britain chairman of the board.

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“It is about raising the awareness of people in the county towards the Special Olympics and getting competitors and volunteers involved. We want to hear from anyone interested in setting up a club, volunteering or indeed playing sport.”

“We had an inaugural meeting before Christmas where someone said they would like to start a swimming club, someone else mentioned a plan for boccia while Phil Green, based at Ipswich Sports Club, has helped set up a basketball club, based at Copleston High School.

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“Orwell Rotary Club have already made a donation to get the project off the ground and Orwell Panthers Athletics Club, who already have a number of members with learning disabilities, have agreed to become an associate club.”

It has been proved that children and adults with learning disabilities who participate in Special Olympics develop improved physical fitness and motor-skills as well as enhancing their self-confidence.

The Special Olympics is known as the third member of the Olympic family, along with the main games and the Paralympics, and the next national games will be held in Bath, next year, a point that is not lost on Mann.

“In the next 12-18 months we would like to get at least three sports up-and-running whether that is in a team scenario or in an individual one such as swimming,” said Mann.

“We are known as Special Olympics Ipswich at the moment but without doubt it will change its name to feature Suffolk, but we have to start somewhere.

“Hopefully we will be able to get a number of sports up-and-running and have a few athletes featuring at the next national games which could in-turn, feed athletes in to European and world competitions such as the 2015 World Summer Games in Los Angeles.”

n To find out more or get involved in the Special Olympics, call 0207 2478891 or e-mail info@sogb.org.uk.

n What do you think? Is there enough provision for disabled sport in Ipswich and beyond? We want your views – call us on 01473 324834, e-mail us at starsport@archant.co.uk or write to us at Press House, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN.

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