It’s not just a damn long journey with several stopovers that Bella Lammers has to travel from the South Pacific to the Spree. Your first trip to Europe is also an extremely expensive one. The athlete, who was born with Down syndrome, has to contribute $18,000 for her debut in the Special Olympics. The same applies to the other 38 eligible starters in their country. The costs are made up of flights, accommodation and the training camps at home and in Germany.
But she definitely wants to compete when the 16th Special Summer Olympic World Games start in Berlin, the largest international multi-sport event on German soil since the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. On Saturday evening, June 17, the event will be officially opened by Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium. Over eight days, more than 7,000 athletes from 190 countries in 26 disciplines will fight for medals – with Bella Lammers in the middle.
The generous personal contribution could not prevent the freestyle and backstroke specialist from realizing her “dream of Berlin”. “I would like to be famous too,” she says as the main reason for her enormous training diligence. She would also like to be as well known as her idol, Richie McCaw, the national rugby legend. When she returns from Germany with gold medals, the 21-year-old hopes that everyone in her island nation will know her.
The parents contributed $6,000 to their daughter’s mammoth tour. The remainder is to be covered by donations. The support is great, reports Bella’s father, Coen, who takes care of her finances.
She works two days a week in a print shop and a fashion shop. On the other days, driven by ambition, she plows through the water with her strong arms at the swimming pool in her hometown of Rollestone. She often trains for an hour without a break. She even has a nutritionist by her side. “I want to get the best out of myself and not disappoint anyone,” is the all-rounder’s creed. She is currently studying to become a dance teacher. She holds the green karate belt. And in the rest of her free time she still raps.
The competitions take place in and around the capital and are broadcast on free TV. 20,000 volunteers will be in action.
The athletes only compete in homogeneous performance groups. The classification is based on reported best performances. As a result, all athletes can start with very different levels of ability, and people with a much larger range of performance are therefore able to take part in the competitions. The rule of maximum performance is linked to the oath of the active: “I want to win, but if I can’t win, I want to do my best bravely.” The appreciation of participation is also visible at the awards ceremony. In addition to the awarding of gold, silver and bronze medals, all active participants in the respective competition are honored.
The Games are officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and are the only organization allowed to use the Olympics designation. The movement began in the 1960s on the initiative of Eunice Kennedy Shriver. The sister of US politicians John F., Robert F. and Edward Kennedy was an activist for people with disabilities.
At that time she experienced how people with a mental disability were excluded from social life. Because of a disability, her sister Rosemarie could not learn and practice various sports like the other siblings, whereupon she opened a summer camp in her garden in June 1963, which she called Camp Shriver. There, children and young people with intellectual disabilities were able to develop their skills through play and sporting activities.
Five years later she organized the first Special Olympics in Chicago. This resulted in a global movement with summer and winter games that are now held every four years at different times.