I was bursting with pride when I saw my son win silver at the Special Olympics

Shirley is mum to Dan, 27, who is supported in his hometown of Rotherham by Sense. Dan is autistic, and also has epilepsy and a learning disability. In this blog, Shirley tells us all about how much Dan has always loved sports, which led him to Berlin to compete in the Special Olympics World Games 2023.

A group of people giving "thumbs up" signs as they stand on stage wearing silver medals.

Dan’s been attending Sheffield Special Olympics, a sports club for disabled athletes, since he was about five years old.

He’s tried different sports over the years, but at the minute he’s part of the ten pin bowling team. He trains with them every other Sunday.

This year, I was bursting with pride when I took him to Berlin to compete in the Special Olympics World Games 2023.

Sports are a huge part of Daniel’s life

When he first started going to Sheffield Special Olympics, Dan was doing gymnastics. 

Then, he went into equestrian events, and tried athletics, too. He competed in national events for both of those.

He also discovered that he loves horses – and he still volunteers at the stables today!

But for the past nine years, his main sport has been ten pin bowling. 

He’s competed nationally a few times, but this year’s Special Olympics World Games in Berlin was his first international competition.

There were lots of challenges, sporting and otherwise

Shirley and her son Dan, both wearing Special Olympics t-shirts and medals and smiling happily for the camera.

I was not only proud of Dan for competing, but for the personal achievement of getting to the games themselves. 

We flew to Stuttgart, then got the coach to Berlin, which was a long trip. We were travelling most of the day.

Then the event kicked off with the opening ceremony, and then one thing after another. It was amazing, but so loud and manic sometimes.

There were 7,000 athletes taking part, so you could imagine how busy it was!

This could all be very overwhelming for Dan, but he was so well supported by the event organisers. There were plenty of supportive volunteers on hand to help, and lots of chilled-out rooms where participants could take a break with drinks and games.

We did have some difficult moments, because Dan got tired. It was a lot for him. We were there for 14 days in total, and about halfway through, he got homesick. 

He also had to share a room with someone else, which was the first time he’s done that for more than a weekend. 

I was a bit worried with how he would handle all of this, but he was amazing. He did so well. 

I was so proud of Daniel and of everyone who took part

I was ecstatic when Dan won a silver medal with his bowling team. He also got bronze medals in the doubles and singles events. 

I’m an assistant coach for the bowling team, so I know them all well, and I was proud to see all of them win medals. 

At the Special Olympics, there are winners, but everyone is also awarded for taking part. The ethos of it is that everyone’s given a chance, and it’s about people taking part and doing their best.

A lot of them do want to win but the ethos for the athletes is ‘If I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt’. It is the fact that they’re given the chance to take part and they put in 100%.

It made me so proud of Dan, and proud of everybody. Being able to see all different countries all coming together, it was just fabulous. Tiring, but fabulous.

Now, Dan’s going back into training for his next event. We can’t wait to travel to our next national or international competition!