Between July 25th to August 2nd, a small team of four athletes from Bhutan participating in a major international sporting event won six medals, becoming perhaps the most successful Bhutanese athletic team in an international competition of this level.
The Dream Team: L-R: Yeshey Dema, Phub Tshering, Kinley Sonam Zangmo, and Pelden.
The event was the Special Olympics Summer Games organized by Special Olympics, at Los Angeles, California, for athletes with intellectual disabilities. The four exceptional athletes– students and alumni of Draktsho Vocational Training Centre for Special Children and Youth, were accompanied by two coaches. Deki Zam, who runs Draktsho, is the daughter of the founder and director of the Centre, and Yeshi Tshering is the finance and administrative officer.
Three of the four athletes were travelling abroad for the first time, making the whole experience extraordinary. Before leaving from Bhutan, the entire team received a special Audience with Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen, and thus began their journey with the greatest motivation and enthusiasm.
In Santa Barbara, the team participated in the Host Town event before the Special Olympics, and were welcomed by Bhutanese families living there, who organized lunches and dinners, and even pitched in for a Limousine Ride for the children.
More Bhutanese families welcomed the team to Los Angeles, and many attended the opening ceremony and events to support the team.
The athletes participated in the 100 metres, 200 metres and mixed relay races, as well as long jump and shot put.
Gold! Pelden won a gold in the men’s 200 metres race and a silver in the 100 metres race.
Phub Tshering won a gold in the men’s long jump.
And another Gold! Yeshey Dema won a gold in the women’s 100 metres race.
Kinley Sonam Zangmo won a bronze in the 100 metres race and the shot put.
“The whole experience increased their confidence, helped them believe in themselves and have faith– seeing their friends win made them believe in themselves, which made them stronger. They are role models for other people living with disabilities,” Deki Zam said.
A stunning victory!: The exceptional athletes brought the tally to 6: 3 Gold, 1 Silver and 2 Bronze!
The team described various experiences– meeting people, going to Disneyland, the Universal Studios and the beach, trying out different food with mixed reactions, and shopping– with excitement.
Jubilant return home: The delegation arrive in Paro.
The team returned to Bhutan triumphant, and full of gratitude for all the encouragement they received from their sponsors and friends. But they also returned having made history, for bringing home an unprecedented number of medals from an Olympic-level event, making the entire country extremely proud.
Images: Courtesy of Deki Zam, Draktsho.