Young Annson Forde was the only member of Guyana’s contingent to win gold at this year’s Special Olympic Games in Florida, USA.
Forde accomplished this feat by fighting through his injury and a lack of support from the respective Government Ministries and Institutions.
“It was great! It was great – the experience” Forde’s face lit up with joy at the memory of crossing the finish line ahead of his competitors from around the world. He was almost at a loss for words.
“All you just wanna do is smile but you know you just gotta be calm so… it was great!”
The Special Olympics Games is an annual global sporting event with Olympic-style individual and team sports for athletes with intellectual disabilities.
This year’s games were contested by more than 5,500 athletes and coaches from 50 US states and the Caribbean.
17-year-old Forde returned with a Gold medal with a time of 26.05s in the 200m finals and finished fourth in the Division M10 of the 100m dash.
“I wasn’t in the shape that I wanted to so I wasn’t really expecting nothing big from my body.”
Forde faced struggles in his preparation for this event which was his first time representing his country in a sport he first fell in love with at eight years old.
When asked why he’s passionate about sprinting, Forde said: “The rush! It’s all about the rush. Soon as you jump out those blocks it’s the rush. Sometimes the race can be over like this (snaps fingers). Just a click. And when you’re done you don’t believe it.”
“And you get to improve on your timings. You get to push your body to see how fast you can go in a short amount of time.”
While he was preparing for this year’s event, he encountered an injury but he was determined to compete at this year’s games regardless.
“I have tendonitis right now. I have an injury and, during the injury, I was competing still cause I wanted to go (to the Special Olympics). And I didn’t really want nobody to know until it like, really started getting bad and it was showing cause I wasn’t walking on my foot properly.”
Part of his determination is fuelled by the fact that he first qualified for the 2019 edition of the event that was hosted in Dubai but could not attend since he wasn’t old enough to compete.
“Everybody was like ‘you got to go to the doctor’, ‘you got to go to the doctor’. But I didn’t want to go to the doctor then … misdiagnosis then I didn’t get to go (to the Special Olympics).”
Additionally, Forde hinted at issues in obtaining the funds needed to compete at the event. He received no Government support to compete at the global sporting event and it was left to his Coach and family to pursue sponsorship from Queensway Security and his church, the Love and Faith World Outreach Ministry.
The issues in obtaining funding frustrated him as he noted he just barely made it to the Florida games.
Forde lamented that there is much to be done to develop sports for persons with special needs in Guyana as persons outside of special needs schools often never give these athletes the level of attention and support given to bigger sports such as cricket and football.
He spent a year preparing for the event under the guidance of his coach Mark Scott, who accompanied Guyana’s delegation to the games.
Forde was full of praise for Coach Mark Scott and spoke fondly of training with him over recent years and in preparation for the Special Olympics.
“That was great it was fun. He’s got a lot of experience, great coach. There’s so much to say about him. He’s a very good person and a very good coach too. I started training with him and that was great, it was fun. And, well, you get to experience a lot more cause he doesn’t really look at the disability and he doesn’t question your disability. He just trains you to do your best.”
Forde, a former student of the Gifted Hands Learning Centre for Special Needs, has dyslexia and a hearing impairment.
While his current focus is completing his CXC/CSEC subjects, he is already planning for next year’s Special Olympics in Berlin.
Local long distance athlete Calvin Thomas also competed at the event where he brought home silver in the men’s 5000m race and fourth place in the 3000m in an impressive showcase for Guyana.