SINGAPORE - Some 33 Team Singapore athletes were given an official send-off ahead of the Special Olympics World Summer Games on Saturday afternoon.
Held at St. Nicholas Girls' School, the contingent were treated to a fun ceremony which was graced by Mr Sam Tan, Minister of State, Prime Minister's Office & Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, who presented the state flag to the athletes to wish them all the best in their endeavours in Los Angeles.
"I am very happy to know that our Team Singapore has sent a team to LA to participate in the Games," Mr Tan said. "The Special Olympics are for athletes with intellectual disabilities and in Singapore, we believe in total inclusion.
"I will be flying to L.A. to support our athletes, to let them know that they have their nation's support behind them."
The ceremony saw a dance performance and video highlights for the athletes, who were thrilled to be given the chance to represent Singapore at the July 25-Aug 2 event. Among the most excited were the women's football team who will be taking part in the Games for the first time.
"I feel so excited. This is the first time I will be travelling far," striker Salbiah Zakaria, 20, said.
This will be the third time she is representing Singapore. She did track and field in Myanmar at the 2013 Asean Para Games and went to the Special Olympics Winter Games as a speed skater in the same year. "We've been training for a year. Hopefully we can bring a medal back for Singapore."
Singapore will feature in seven sports - athletics, badminton, bocce, bowling, football, swimming and table tennis.
Vice-President of Special Olympics Singapore, captain Roger Loh Chin Chan, said: "This means so much to them. Their smile is so genuine and it's more than I can ask for. Some of them have not even been out of Singapore before or travelled on an aeroplane before. This is the opportunity that Special Olympics have given them."
All costs are paid for by Special Olympics, the world's largest sports organisation supporting individuals with intellectual disabilities. The Games will see 170 countries participating.