Four Other Sports Go Through Divisioning at the Convention Center
By Joyce Peng
The USA Bocce Team 1, consisting of older athletes Mary Davis, Sheryl Fairbanks, Nicole Landoskey and Kenneth Skinner, played Panama in the T2 division on July 26 at the LA Convention Center.
U.S. lit up a fast start leading 3-0, but Panama took the lead 5-3 with four points in the third round. U.S. tied the game at five points and eventually won the game 10-5 with four points in the last round.
Landoskey, 24, of South Carolina, started playing bocce when she was in high school and joined because she wanted to get out, have fun, and meet new friends. Her first time at the World Games, Landoskey said she felt great about her performance against Panama.
Her teammate, Fairbanks, made a crucial shot in the match, knocking away Panama’s ball from the pallino, which led to U.S. points. 59-years-old Fairbanks has made other important shots, including a game-winning shot in the Special Olympics summer games at her home state Ohio. Her team was losing 3-2 when she earned two points to bring her team in the lead 4-3, and because of the lead, her team won gold. In the Opening Ceremony, Fairbanks met First Lady Michelle Obama and received a big hug from her.
“It’s fun and I love my team,” Fairbanks said about why she likes playing bocce.
USA Team 1 beat Panama 9-4 on July 27 to win gold in the T2 division.
Tiaunta Gray, 30, of Los Angeles, is in USA Team 2 for bocce. Her team did not get to play on July 26 because its opponent, Costa Rica, did not show up. The next day, the team played two games against Costa Rica, winning one game 14-3 and losing the other 10-6.
Playing bocce since 2004, Gray said the sport keeps her moving. Her team first met last October in Indianapolis for the World Games training camp.
“I learned don’t throw my ball too fast, and take my time and concentrate,” Gray said on training camp lessons.
Bocce was one of 25 sports of the Special Olympics World Games Los Angeles 2015, and one of five sports that took place in the LA Convention Center on July 26.
Divisioning occurred for all five sports: roller skating, badminton, handball, bocce and table tennis. Divisioning is the process of grouping athletes and teams for competition based on age, gender, and most importantly, ability level, and this is done to guarantee each athlete is competing against other athletes of equal ability.
In rollerskating, there was divisioning in categories such as the 300 meters for male and female, 1000 meters for male and female and 30 meters slalom. The Notre Dame School of Dallas Cheer Squad was in attendance. Hip-hop, metal, and pop music such as Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me” blared in the background to match with the fast speed of the roller skaters.
In badminton, young and older athletes were called up to play against referees to determine their groupings, rallying back and forth as well as serving to referees. Judges were on hand taking notes of the performances.
Denmark and Cote d’Ivore’s women’s handball teams played against each other for divisioning. It was a close game throughout, with both teams exchanging ties and leads. The Cote d’Ivore’s goalie blocked several shots from an advancing Denmark team. Her Denmark counterpart also saved key shots as well, including one that she saved with her feet. Denmark won the match, 3-2.
The Opening Ceremony at the LA Memorial Coliseum was filled with amazing moments and inspiration speakers. David Egan of Virginia and a Sargent Shriver International Global Messenger spoke during the pre-show about how participating in Special Olympics as a swimmer helped him gain confidence to succeed, set goals, and change his life. Debbie Allen, director of the Ceremony, taught the audience the “Reach Up LA” dance. The Parade of Athletes was a main highlight of the Ceremony, starting with Greece and ending with United States.
Jamaal Charles, the Kansas Chiefs’ running back, talked about his struggles with a learning disability as a child. After competing in Special Olympics at age 10, he discovered the talent he did not know he had and he gained confidence and courage. He then led the athletes in reciting the Special Olympics oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
Stevie Wonder performed his song “Fear can’t put dreams to sleep,” and the First Lady stressed the theme of unity in her speech. Toward the end of the ceremony, the Flame of Hope arrived at the Coliseum.