THE enthusiasm and smiles worn by athletes at the Special Olympics Bocce tournament yesterday was contagious – it was impossible not to get swept up in the laughter.
And although the participants were excited about winning, the best part was seeing them high-five each other on the green after a good shot.
Jokes and chats were shared between players from a range of countries including Pakistan, China and New Zealand while everyone sat down for a cooked lunch at the Charlestown Bowling Club.
Head coach Jeffrey Stewart was one of many Queenslanders with the Australian Bocce team.
He said he got involved in coaching because of his son, David, who is now 25, is believed to have Angelman syndrome.
One of the indicators of the genetic condition – which involves intellectual disability – is a fascination with water.
“He enjoys the interaction with all the people,” Jeffrey said.
“When he was younger he would watch his brother play soccer and he wanted to play.
“But he couldn’t fit into a club scenario because some coaches they want to win.
“The Special Olympics is the athletes competing and having a good time – if they win, that’s great, if they lose, well, that’s good too.
“When you realise what these people can achieve, it’s just amazing.
“At first it is a difficult process and you want to break down and cry but when you become a part of these organisations you meet other people and you’re not alone.
David said he liked playing bocce because, “I’m really good at it”.
He was just one of many Australian members having the time of their life.
Central Coast woman Sandy-Lee Carauna, 33, struggles with muscle tone and intellectual disability.
But when she was out on the green playing Bocce she felt like a superstar.
“I love it because you get medals,” she said, laughing.