Athletes in Olympic moment

March 02, 2018

Angus Kilpatrick, front, and Steven White went stroke for stroke in the first lap of the 100m backstroke during the Echuca Campaspe Special Olympics regionals on Saturday. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

FIFTY years.

That’s how long it has been since Eunice Kennedy Shriver started the Special Olympics.

Kennedy Shriver, the sister of John F Kennedy, had children suffering from intellectual disabilities come to her house and participate in sports in her back yard.

50 years later, it has become an international organisation, holding events events at town, state and national level.

In Echuca, there are 36 registered athletes with Special Olympics.

And for 11 of those athletes, the 2018 Special Olympics XI National Games in Adelaide this April is their goal.

Margaret Gumbleton, who works as one of 14 registered volunteers with the group, is incredibly proud of what the athletes are achieving.

‘‘They’ve worked so hard and are doing so much good work in their sports,’’ Margaret said.

Margaret has an incredible history with the organisation.

The mother of a child with a disability, Margaret has been involved in Special Olympics for 24 years.

‘‘I was involved in Special Olympics for 12 years in Melbourne before I came to Echuca,’’ Margaret said.

‘‘So I’ve been involved in the organisation here ever since, be it as part of the committee, assisting with coaching the swimming or as a team manager.’’

Margaret said she continued to be involved due to her love of helping those with disabilities achieve their goals.

‘‘I absolutely love being able to see these young people achieving things that they never in their wildest dreams thought they would be able to do,’’ Margaret said.

Margaret said while the athletes were competing in a different class, they were as serious as any other athletes.

‘‘A lot of the competitors don’t really recognise themselves as having a disability,’’ she said.

‘‘They just see themselves as people competing in their sport who want to do the absolute best they can in everything they compete in.’’

After 24 years as a volunteer, Margaret doesn’t see herself stopping any time soon.

‘‘I like to think about it as ‘what else would I do?’,’’ she said.

‘‘I absolutely love what I’m involved in, so as long as I am able to be involved, I want to keep being involved in the organisation and in these wonderful young people’s lives.’’

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