A new website designed to promote the “Special 21” project, which aims to make Down’s syndrome swimmers eligible to participate in the Paralympic Games, was launched on Thursday, December 12 at the Conrad Algarve in Quinta do Lago.
The event was attended by teachers, founders of the project, representatives from local entities and clubs and several children with special needs.
The website was created by Faro-based company Dengun and provides information on the project, its history and its three founders António Colaço, Sónia Demétrio and Cyril Griffith.
Colaço, president of Futebol Clube Ferreiras (Albufeira), was the first to speak to the crowd and thanked Dengun “for its magnificent work” as well as everyone else who is involved in the project.
He also thanked Albufeira Council, which has supported the project financially and logistically, and Conrad Algarve for hosting “this magnificent event” and being an “active part of the project”.
Albufeira Mayor José Carlos Rolo pledged that it is the council’s goal to support all sports in the municipality, especially disabled sports.
“We are committed to creating conditions so that people with special needs can live their lives to the fullest,” he said.
He also highlighted the growth of adapted swimming in Albufeira, saying that “our pools are starting to become too small for all this success” and suggested that the council might invest in new pools if the interest continues to grow.
Cyril Griffith, a British expat who is captain of the Laranjal Golf Club and one of the project’s founders, provided some insight into the “discriminatory” rules that dictate who can participate in the Paralympics.
She gave the example of the 2012 Paralympics which received “ample media attention due to Ellie Simmonds, a swimmer born with achondroplasia (dwarfism), who was allowed to compete while a group of Down’s syndrome swimmers could not due to these bureaucratic rules”.
Another of the founders, Sónia Demétrio, promises to keep fighting for equality for Down’s syndrome swimmers.
“We will not quit. Until then, we will continue to believe in these children, in their successes and daily achievements.”