Competing at the Special Olympics USA Games for the first time, Special Olympics Bahamas turned in an exceptional effort, coming away with six medals – four gold and two bronze at the week-long event which wrapped up on Sunday in Orlando, Florida.
The 23-member squad, 12 from New Providence and 10 from Grand Bahama, returned home to a rousing reception at Lynden Pindling International Airport yesterday.
The Bahamas picked up four of those six medals on Tuesday – two gold and two bronze. “King” Deron Forbes showed why he is the self-proclaimed king of the 400 meters (m) in athletics, taking gold in that event after going into the final with the fourth-fastest time from the preliminaries.
Forbes came back in the men’s 200m on Friday and settled for fifth after going into the final with the third-fastest time out of the prelims.
Also on Tuesday, Stephen “Goliath” Russell out of Freeport, Grand Bahama, won gold in men’s singles in bocce. He won both of his men’s singles matches in the prelims on Monday, and then came back to win the gold medal match on Tuesday. Russell then teamed up with Vashni “Metro” Thompson to win the gold medal in their division in bocce doubles later in the week. They defeated Aruba 10-3 in the gold medal match.
Russell and Thompson were simply spectacular, finishing undefeated in the bocce doubles competition. In the preliminary round, they turned back Aruba by a score of 10-1 and then defeated Delaware by the same score, 10-1.
In women’s singles in bocce on Tuesday, Thompson settled for a bronze medal. In the prelims, she lost her first match and won the second.
In bowling singles on Tuesday, Bronson “B Man” Aranha won a bronze medal for The Bahamas, competing in the M12 Division. In the M5 Division, Austin “Mr. Big Stuff” Green had to settle for fourth, missing the bronze medal by seven pins. In the preliminary round, Green averaged 125 while Aranha averaged 122. The duo finished seventh in bowling doubles.
In soccer, The Bahamas finished with a 2-2 win/loss record, most importantly winning the gold medal match in their division on Friday. The Bahamas defeated Special Olympics Ohio, 4-3, for the gold medal, on Friday. The team lost 3-2 to Special Olympics Florida on Tuesday, fell 3-1 to Special Olympics Michigan on Wednesday, and then won its first match, defeating Special Olympics Colorado, 2-1, on Thursday. They then came back and won the gold medal on Friday.
“Our athletes continue to shine and we are very proud of them,” said National Director of Special Olympics Bahamas Gilbert Williams who traveled with the team. The Bahamas was competing in the Special Olympics USA Games for the first time and is scheduled to compete in the Special Olympics World Games in Berlin, Germany, next year.
“We went after nine medals and came back with six, but we are proud of all of the athletes,” said Williams.
“Stephen ‘Goliath’ Russell said his goal coming into this event was to come away with a gold and that is exactly what he did, just erasing everyone in his path. One of his matches, he won 12-0, and then went on to win the gold. The self-proclaimed king of the 400 meters, Deron Forbes, went out there and showed what he could do. He could talk the talk and he certainly knows how to back it up. He went out there and won a gold as well.
“Forbes continued to impress in the 200m, and the bocce doubles team of Stephen Russell and Vashni Thompson, they were simply unstoppable. They ran all over the competition on that first day and then went out there and won gold. That dynamic duo went undefeated in doubles play in the competition. The soccer team bounced back from a rough start to win gold in their division. Bronson ‘B Man’ Aranha went out there and won a bronze medal for The Bahamas in bowling singles and Vashni did the same thing in bocce singles.
“There were some close finishes as well. Austin ‘Mr. Big Stuff’ Green had to settle for fourth in bowling singles, Forbes was fifth in the 200m in athletics, and the men’s doubles team of Austin Green and Bronson Aranha gave it their all but finished seventh in their division in bowling.
“The team performed extremely well, and outside of the performances, I can tell you that the athletes thoroughly enjoyed themselves. For many of them, this was their first time traveling to the US, for some of them, this was their first time at Disney, and for some of them, this was their first time competing internationally. With that being said, it was a great competition, a great time and it’s time for a great celebration. We appreciate all of the support that we’ve gotten, and with continued support, our athletes will continue to shine and make The Bahamas proud.”
The Bahamas competed in four sporting disciplines at the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games – athletics, bocce, bowling and soccer.
Over 3,800 athletes from the United States of America (USA), Canada and the Caribbean competed in 19 sporting disciplines in total. This was the first time that countries outside of the USA competed in the Special Olympics USA Games. The event was hosted by Walt Disney World, and all of the athletes and coaches had an opportunity to visit Disney’s Magic Kingdom and the other theme parks.
Most of the competitions took place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.