Los Angeles, California, USA
The 2015 World Games were characterized by fame and celebrities! Avril Lavigne introduced her song “Fly”, the athletes performed in a talent show judged by Paula Abdul, and the Gym Show featured Olympians Kyla Ross and Raj Bhavsar. The real stars of the event were the 318 Special Olympics gymnasts who competed on the UCLA campus: 69 in Men’s Artistic, 91 in Women’s Artistic, and 158 in Rhythmic. Competition Director, Maureen Miller, worked with Technical Delegates and Assistant Technical Delegates, George Krenk and Enzo Fulgieri (Men), Kirstin Dunn and Deborah Pastorelli (Women), Ashley Powell and Cindy Hoover (Rhythmic) to run an outstanding gymnastics event. For the first time, a SOOPA athlete, Lani DeMello, was an international technical official with the job of measuring rhythmic apparatus.
Gymnastics was one of the most popular competitions of the Games. Every day, there was a line of spectators outside the door waiting to get in, and at the Gym Show, it was standing room only. For the athletes, the excitement inside the gym was only topped by the thrill of going outside to the courtyard to receive awards.
The 2015-2023 Special Olympics Rhythmic Gymnastics program was introduced at a two-day workshop that followed competition. Cindy Bickman did an overview of the program. Rosie Garcia, Ali Lambright, Klelia Pantazi and Annie Pantazi taught the new routines to coaches and athletes, who did a unified group performance at the Gym Show. Cindy Hoover, Efie Pantazidou and Sofia Boura explained the judging guidelines.
Special Olympics competition is truly unique and one experience at the 2015 World Games exemplified the spirit of cooperation in the gymnastics community. At podium training, the judges noticed that one of the men’s competitors was doing routines that were out of date. Coaches from other countries didn’t hesitate to teach that athlete the current routines before preliminary competition began. Teamwork at its finest! And everyone was proud to see the athlete standing on the awards podium with medals around his neck.