Special Olympics World Games Athens 2011

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Rosie has finally attended a Special Olympics World Games!

It has been a long journey for both of us. You may have learnt from other articles dotted around that Rosie and I had a real ouside chance of going to the World Games in Dublin in 2003 but we hadn’t done enough qualifying events. We should have gone in 2007 to Shanghi but we were not selected.

So it was with some joy that Rosie finally had a selection to ride for Team GB. She had done both the Regional and National events but with only 8 cycling places up for grabs and only 2 of those being for females there was a big question mark over her selection.

Selection brought some new problems

The first was trying to keep her motivated and training - The lure of three weeks in foreign parts certainly seemed to keep Rosie focussed, Leo helped to keep her training through last winter, a few SO events where she picked up some more medals helped, a few longer Saturday rides with Kevin over to Old Warden put miles into her legs and a few evening time trials at BRCC finished the job off.

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Rosie at the Manchester training event with fellow competitors Allan and Kevin

The second was more of a logistical hassle of attending training camps in Scotland, the North West and the Midlands. Some Rosie really enjoyed - the Sky Ride in Glasgow was one and the one in Manchester where they combined it with a competition where the most memorable. These were also used to start to build the cycle team together, they needed to get used to each other - 8 special needs in a foreign country for 3 weeks was a potential for fireworks!

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The GB Team at Runcorn and the official team pic

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The cycling team" Kevin, Tom (cycling coach), Ramon (assistant coach), Ian, 
Leanne, Allan, Rosie, Ronnie and Jamie. Scott is missing

The third was the funding - a 2000 pound price tag just to attend the games came just as we entered recession. However there has been many people that have helped to secure the funding required. We have had individual donations, we have donations from the local scout group, BRCC requested a levy at their evening league, Rosie had a stall at various events at college and sold various bits and pieces, we baked and sold cakes and then there was the Flitwick to Paris bike ride. We raised far more funds than we needed and after all outgoings, including a new bike and accessories, we should have enough funds left to sponsor another athlete in 4 years time!

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Rosie at Heathrow

Rosie therefore left these sunny shores for Athens even sunnier shores in late June. There was then a transfer to the island of Skiathos where Team GB would be housed for the best part of a week. Unfortunately a bit of bad Greek planning didn’t allow for the bikes being able to join them so the only training they did was some backstroke in the pool! They did do some cultural visits and where made most welcome where ever they went. After 5 days they returned to Athens for the Opening Ceremony in the Panathenaic Stadium where 7,000 athletes from 185 countries and volunteers and family would celebrate the lighting of the Olympic Flame and the start of the games. It was a long evening with many performers including Stevie Wonder. Team GB had returned from Skiathos with a bug a with 25 people ill or in hospital they retired early. This was no bad thing as Rosie was riding first thing in the morning and many athletes that stayed to the end didn’t get to their beds until after 3am!

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The opening ceremony was impressive!

As registered family we had picked up our passes (which gave us free use of all transport and free entry to many tourist spots - Acropolis etc.) and after a free bus ride arrived at the cycling. This was set on the 2004 Olympic venues for softball/badminton/gymnastics on a vast old airport. It was incredibly hot and incredibly windy. The route was all fenced off and but closing off various bits varied from a 500m oval to a 2.5 lap. The surface was variable, had a fair few stones littered around and some really tight corners! Rosie was delighted to see us as where the other cyclists and we settled down for what was going to be a long day. The organisers wanted to get through all the divisioning of the riders, this for Rosie entailed three rides with them spread throughout the day, the first at 9.15 the last at 7.45! She was then scheduled to ride every morning for the next three days. We watched Rosie, drank the free coffee and water and spoke to people from all over the world. 

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Rosie so cool in that new helmet and oh so cool shades!

Day one of competition was on the Monday, all sports go through divisioning and some take longer than others to sort out. Cycling was relatively quick only taking one whole day! The advantage though was that cycling would have the first medals presented and as such various great and good people turned up as well as camera’s and press and a huge amount of Martell (the toy maker employees from all over the world).
The day started badly with Rosie meeting us with bandages on her arm, a swollen and bruised nose as well as a scrape up her knee. It seems she had an off whilst warming up. Her coach Tom was trying to keep her moving to stop any stiffness creeping in. The mens races where first so we watched Allan ride to a 4th spot. After a short break and a few female events Rosie took to the track for the 5k road race, as per usual she put the hammer down from the start and pulled away fast, straight into the lead. It was short lived though and two Isreali girls soon passed her. They all disappeared to the other side of the course and tense moments later they appeared with Rosie lying in third spot but tight on the tail on the 2nd girl. Second and last time around Rosie had tailed off and strangely the two Isreali girls had swapped places! Rosie came in a comfortable third - a bronze. It wasn’t till later that we found out that it was Team GB’s first medal and as such Rosie got mentioned in dispatch’s all over the place including the Daily Mail and on the BBC!
The cycling now had fallen into a routine and was all finished before the real heat of the afternoon kicked in, so on leaving the cycling we went to watch some handball, badminton and then went to watch some of the gymnastics - fantastic.

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Rosie on the podium with her Bronze medal.

Day two and for us parents and family the start of the strikes and the complete lack of public transport, so in to the yellow cabs we went! However we had waited a while for the cab to arrive and have a fairly long walk from the drop off point. Also my mum with two knee replacements is not the fast thing on two legs! We arrived just as Rosie came to the end of the 1k time trial, we shouted and bellowed and Rosie visually picked up the pace and pushed it to the line - silver! Another fantastic result and only missed gold by 5 seconds!
We went off and had some lunch whilst watching some softball and we then got Rosie signed out and she came and joined us for the afternoon, we went down to the beach and went swimming and dozed on the beach before a beer/coffee.

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Another day another medal - this time silver

Day three was the day we were to fly home so we had an early start to get over to the cycling for the 9.15 start Rosie had along with all our luggage. Rosie was in a 5k time trial and looking at the divisioning made up of pre event times (for Rosie this was Leicester 2009) and her time divisioning time here in Athens she looked good set for 4th place, here coach thought there might be a chance of something better. However the wind had dropped significantly and some of the lighter riders would find it quicker. We positioned ourselves around the course and gave full voice when she came past. She was giving it everything but it was a tough group, Rosie finished a very creditable 4th.

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Nanny was soooo pleased too...

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Rosie also had some attention from some of the other athletes too!! Was a
few days before she stopped smiling!

We had a fantastic time and we met some amazing people and saw some truely inspiring performances and not all of those on bikes. Of the cyclist only four would medal. Scott crashed in the last 200 meters of the 40k road race and spent the next 9 hours in hospital, this was his first event and didn’t ride again. A great, great bunch and a privalage to be with. There was a unity among the athletes and they helped and supported each other, the Indians and Pakistanis applauded each other when they won medals as did the Isrealis, the Iranians, the Egyptians, the Russians, the Americans....

We picked Rosie up this evening as the second half of Team GB flew into Heathrow. They all came through arrivals wearing their medals and big happy smiles. As a testament to Greek planning Rosie’s bike is now in Glasgow!

We sat and talked and Rosie is keen to carry on riding (this may be a temporary thing but I will certainly encourage it).

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