Two young Latvian figure skaters are perfecting their skills to participate in the Special Olympics in 2025 thanks to sponsorship by the international marketplace Joom.
Photo: Ornella Danchenko and Agata Mischenkova with their coach Ieva Gaile at European Winter Games in Germany
Fifteen-year-old Ornella Danchenko and Agata Mischenkova, 12, have signed a contract with the Special Olympics of Latvia, which represents athletes with mental health disabilities.
In Latvia, the Paralympic Games for athletes with physical disabilities are currently known more widely, but the success of both girls gives hope that the public and supporters will learn more about the movement of the Special Olympics which embraces athletes with mental disorders.
Latvia’s Special Olympics candidates, Ornella with Down syndrome and Agata, who has autism spectrum disorder, train in the same group as ordinary children. "The trainer adapts the tasks and the workload depending on the child's abilities," says Ornella’s mother, Diana Rucevska, adding that communication with other children is very beneficial, and sport also builds and moulds character.
Seeing her daughter's progress, Diana started to enquire about competing. "It's very motivating, so my daughter has a goal to strive for. That's why, when we heard about it, we set the Special Olympics as a goal. The first competition Ornella took part in was in Tampere, Finland, followed by trips to Scotland and Germany, so we can say that she has already gained a lot of experience. We have just returned from a camp in Sweden, and this trip has already been made possible with the help of our sponsors, the online shopping platform Joom."
Thanks to the training, Ornella and Agata have not only become much more athletic, improved their motor skills and coordination, but also speech. "The progress is really tangible, we can see it in the way they interact with people and, in general terms, we can say that our daughters are integrating into society," Diana says, adding that the development of any child requires the attention, input and care of parents. "It is the same with special children, but of course more attention and resources are needed. However, the success is there."
The girls’ families hope that the Special Olympics movement in Latvia will gain more visibility, as sport is also very helpful for mental health problems. "I have been thinking about organising competitions at Baltic level, for example. I was inspired by a competition in Scotland where there were a lot of children to compete against. Of course, you need the support of parents and sponsors. Thanks to them, my coach and I have the opportunity to go regularly to specially organised competitions for children with intellectual and mental development problems. Other companies would definitely agree to help when they find out how much sport helps these children."
The Special Olympics follow a similar plan to the Olympic and Paralympic Games: there is a selection process, contacts with the Olympic Committee to assess and approve the national candidates. Latvian Special Olympics athletes have already participated in twelve Special Olympics World Summer and Winter Games. The next Winter Olympics are planned for Turin, Italy, in 2025.
Joom is an international group of eCommerce and Fintech companies that was founded in June 2016 in Riga, Latvia. Joom has offices in Latvia, Germany, Luxembourg, Portugal, China, Hong-Kong, and the USA.
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