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LA-bound ‘special’ Olympians seek help for airfares

Brina Kei Maxino is the first Filipino with Down Syndrome to represent the Asia Pacific region at the Special Olympics Global Youth Activation Summit in LA. (Photo by MARIO IGNACIO IV) By JAKE SORIANO THEY make the country proud but pay a high price, literally. The 36 athletes from the Philippines who will compete at

Mar 6, 2015

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Brina Kei Maxino is the first Filipino with Down Syndrome to represent the Asia Pacific region at the Special Olympics Global Youth Activation Summit . (Photo by MARIO IGNACIO IV)
Brina Kei Maxino is the first Filipino with Down Syndrome to represent the Asia Pacific region at the Special Olympics Global Youth Activation Summit in LA. (Photo by MARIO IGNACIO IV)

By JAKE SORIANO

THEY make the country proud but pay a high price, literally.

The 36 athletes from the Philippines who will compete at the Special Olympics in July will each have to fork around $1,500 (P66,000) for a round trip ticket to Los Angeles.

“We need help,” said Special Olympics Philippines Executive Director Kaye Samson. “Mahirap talaga. Most of our athletes hindi naman lahat may kaya (It’s really hard for our athletes, most of whom are not well-off).

Founded in 1968, the global sporting event seeks to empower persons with intellectual disabilities.

According to Samson, Special Olympics Philippines is still trying to seek the help of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC).

“The last time, in Australia, they gave enough for uniforms. Airfare was not covered,” she said.

Because of financial constraints, the Philippines will be sending fewer athletes this year.

“We will only join in seven sports: athletics, aquatics, badminton, bowling, unified football, gymnastics, and power lifting,” Samson said.

The athletes would be coming from Bacolod, Baguio, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, Iloilo, La Union, and Metro Manila.

Including coaches, a total of 52 persons from the Philippines is expected to attend the games in LA.

Funding woes in recent years have led to athletes dropping out of the competition, said Samson.

“In previous games, siguro nagda-drop, mga sampu. Nagba-back-out (Around ten have backed out and did not make it in previous games),” she lamented. But so far, this year for the July competition, no one has dropped out.

Yet despite financial constraints, the country’s athletes to the Special Olympics still find ways to make the country proud.

“They’re always on top,” said Samson. “Sigurado yan, bawat isa mag-uuwi ng medal (And everyone is sure to bring home medals).”

In August last year, the Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C. announced that Brina Kei Maxino, a Filipina teen with Down Syndrome, was chosen as co-chair and representative of Asia Pacific in the Special Olympics Youth Activation Summit.

The global summit will also be held in LA in conjunction with the sporting event.

Some 7,000 athletes and 3,000 coaches from 177 countries are expected to attend the games in LA, dubbed as “the largest sports and humanitarian event anywhere in the world in 2015.”

Half a million spectators are expected to watch, according to the official website of the event.

“These games will change the lives of people around the world who are mistreated and excluded because they’re ‘different,’” said the president and chief executive officer of the LA Special Olympics organizing committee Patrick McClenahan in a statement.

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