James' Goal Is Abu Dhabi
In March 2019, Rutherford teenager, James Gibbs, will don the green and gold with pride as he represents Australia at the Special Olympics World Summer Games.
Hosted in Abu Dhabi, UAE, the Special Olympics World Summer Games will see 7,000 athletes with an intellectual disability from 170 nations competing across 24 sports in front of half a million spectators.
Australia will be represented by 105 athletes who will compete across 11 sports; athletics, basketball, bocce, bowling, equestrian, football, golf, gymnastics, sailing, swimming and tennis.
James, 19, has been playing football (soccer) since the age of five and has had a colourful upbringing in the world of sport. Starting out in mainstream sports, he transitioned to the Special Olympics network at the age of eight where he was encouraged, felt accepted and embraced by the supportive sporting community.
From starting out at regional and state level competitions, to competing at a national level for both football and swimming and even winning multiple gold and silver medals over the years, James has worked hard to make his dream of competing in the Special Olympics a reality.
A man of few words, James is excited about the opportunity to
travel overseas and compete on an international level.
Being the youngest member of the Australian football team.
“I am so excited to represent Australia,” James said.
The selection for the Special Olympics took place in June 2018 and since then, James and his family have been working hard, both on and off the field. Each week James trains twice a week; socially in Rutherford and then travels to Lake Macquarie to train with his team mates.
As part of the experience, each athlete must raise $7,000 to cover the cost of airfares, accommodation, uniforms and some meals over the three week travel period. James’ mother, Kylie Gibbs, has been busy organising events and raffles to ensure her son has the funds to send James on his Special Olympics journey.
“With the help of the local community, so far we have raised almost $4,000 and are so grateful for the support. Sport has helped James’ social interaction skills and built his confidence greatly. I’m very proud of James making the team, especially as he is the youngest player selected for football. What a great way to spend your first trip overseas,” Kylie said.
His sporting career aside, James has worked in Mai-Wel’s timber products and light metal fabrication business, Mai-Wel Enterprises, in Telarah for the last two years. His work ethic and ability to achieve anything he puts his mind too has not gone unnoticed by Manager, Bill Arbuckle.
“James is a young man with so many skills. He is clever, enthusiastic and has the ability to achieve great things. It is no wonder that he has been selected to represent Australia on the world stage,“ Bill said.
“The staff and his workmates are excited to see him compete and wish him and his Australian team mates the best of luck.”
To follow the games as they happen, click here to visit the official Special Olympics World Games website.
Incredibly, we have another Mai-Wel participant competing at the Games! To read about Mary's journey to her first international bowling competition, click here.