- Alton Carter and Vincent Evans, two special needs residents at The Golden Age Home (TGAH), have set their eyes on gold for the 14th Special Olympics World Summer Games to be held in Los Angeles, California later this month.
- Both are set to compete in the over 45 age category playing bocce, a sport for which many Jamaicans are unfamiliar.
- Bocce has its origin in Italy and is similar to lawn bowling in that the objective is for players, usually two to eight, to get as many of their balls as close to the smaller target ball as possible.
Alton Carter and Vincent Evans, two special needs residents at The Golden Age Home (TGAH), have set their eyes on gold for the 14th Special Olympics World Summer Games to be held in Los Angeles, California later this month.
Both are set to compete in the over 45 age category playing bocce, a sport for which many Jamaicans are unfamiliar.
Bocce has its origin in Italy and is similar to lawn bowling in that the objective is for players, usually two to eight, to get as many of their balls as close to the smaller target ball as possible. The winner is decided based on whose ball is closest to the target ball.
Like the game, the men have been steadily working towards reaching their target of competing internationally. However, the road to the Special Olympics Games was often paved with difficulties for the men who have had to and continue to overcome their own personal struggles.
Alton Carter aged 47, who is hampered by slow speech and motor skills, became a resident of TGAH 35 years ago, after fire destroyed the Eventide Home where he was staying in 1980.
However, while many persons in similar positions have lived unfruitful lives, Alton, has seemingly found his calling after he was introduced to the sport when local recruiters for the Special Olympics Games visited the Home.
He began training and in 1993, at his first Special Olympics Games, his efforts yielded much dividend when he won an individual gold medal for his outstanding performance in the sport.
“My first trip was okay. I got a gold medal and this year hopefully it will be so,” he tells JIS News with a coy smile during an interview.
When Alton is not training he is busy tending the garden at the Home where he plants pak choi and callaloo.
While Alton has already been to the Games, this will be the first outing for Vincent Evans, who has been trying out for the team for a few years.
Unlike Alton, who was born with special needs, Vincent, 51, lived a normal life that is until 1992 when the unexpected occurred. He had a massive stroke, the results of which caused the left side of his body to be completely paralyzed.
Unable to continue work as a car painter and without the necessary assistance, Vincent came to TGAH in 2000.
Nevertheless, with continued physiotherapy he has regained some form of independence. These days he gets around with the assistance of a walking cane.
He says that his ongoing recovery was partly motivated by his desire to join the athletes he saw travelling to the Games.
“When I came here …, I saw them travelling and I said if you can do it I can do it too and so I got involved and started to train. I have trying for a long time and now I have the opportunity,” Vincent shares.
Although a first timer, he is confident that he will at the very least medal in the event.
“I have beaten the best around the island to be a part of the national team so I expect to medal,” he says adding that he practices whenever he gets the opportunity.
The sports enthusiast also enjoys cricket, football and athletics.
Both Vincent and Alton have attested to the fact that playing bocce, though it may seem like a sport that requires little physical effort, has kept them fit. Vincent credits his 20 pound weight loss to the sport.
Perhaps no one knows better though, than the Home’s bocce coach, Silvan Wilson, how well the men will perform.
Mr. Wilson has been coaching the sport for over 27 years. Like many Jamaicans he too was unfamiliar with bocce and became interested only while being trained by a volunteer who had visited the Home.
He says the men have done the work and is also positive that with the right conditions they will end the Special Olympic World Summer Games on a high.
“As far as I see right now, I am looking at gold from them and if not that then some other medal but no ribbons”, he expresses.
Mr. Wilson also gave his predictions for the other areas. He says based on his observation of training sessions, Jamaica is expected to do well and should end the Games with over 80 medals which would be the country’s best performance to date.
While excited about the prospects for the Jamaican team, he is lamenting the low levels of support from Corporate Jamaica. Despite the challenges however, he thanks the Digicel Foundation who along with Independence Park Limited and the NBA Care team constructed a multi-purpose facility at the National Indoor Sports Centre for Special Olympics Jamaica.
Mr. Evans also thanked TGAH for their support. He says the Home has been on board ensuring the physical and dietary needs of the athletes are being met.
Executive Director of Special Olympics Jamaica, Lorna Bell, says the inclusion of Alton and Vincent is especially unique.
“This year they have offered a special event for persons over 45 years old,” she informs adding that “[Carter and Evans] are going to go there and they are going to do extremely well because this is the sport they have been playing all their lives”.
Mrs. Bell also commented on the support that the national team has received.
“I want to thank the entire Jamaica because everybody helped us, even the little man who would pass here at give us that $20. We are really appreciative of it,” she says.
Special Olympic Athletes are persons with intellectual disabilities and whose Intelligence Quotient (IQ) does not match with their age.
Jamaica’s Special Olympics programme began in 1978 and admits athletes, after a thorough assessment, from as early as age three.
An 88 person delegation will represent Jamaica at the Games. They will compete in swimming, badminton, basketball, bocce, football (male and female), volleyball and athletics.