Princess Charlene joins Team Monaco at Special Olympics Winter Games

Princess Charlene joins Monaco for the Parade of Athletes during the opening Ceremony March 18 at the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games Photo: Eric Mathon/Palais Princier
Princess Charlene joins Monaco for the Parade of Athletes during the opening Ceremony March 18 at the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games Photo: Eric Mathon/Palais Princier

Founded in the early Eighties, Special Olympics Monaco is an organisation under the High Patronage of HSH Prince Albert that provides opportunities for adults and children with intellectual disabilities to practice sport.

Special Olympics Monaco counts more than 70 athletes who represent the Monegasque delegation throughout the world. From the very beginning, Prince Albert had been the association’s Honorary President, until 2012, when Princess Charlene, a passionate advocate of the Special Olympics movement, stepped into the role.

Over the past week, a delegation of 23 athletes from Monaco has been participating in the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria, which runs from March 14 to 25.

UPDATE MARCH 28: Special Olympics Monaco set a record winning 11 Gold, 9 Silver and 10 Bronze medals, with 30 podiums, nearly double compared to previous Games in Korea.

Princess Charlene, after an eventful two days with the Monaco-South Africa Rugby Exchange, providing a water safety session with the teams on Friday, March 17, and then supporting the Sainte Devote Rugby Tournament the following morning, flew to Austria later on Saturday to take part in the Winter Games Opening Ceremony at 7 pm.

The Princess met with Team Monaco and then walked proudly alongside them during the Parade of Athletes. Around 2,700 athletes from 107 nations participated in the march at the Schladming Planaistadium, with an additional 1,100 coaches, 3,000 volunteers and some 5,000 family members also in the stadium.

“I am so proud to be here at the Special Olympics to support Team Monaco” Princess Charlene told Monaco Life. “The atmosphere at the opening ceremony was electric, the place was buzzing with excitement.”

The Princess added, “The athletes are such an inspiration to me, their courage is remarkable.”

Princess Charlene with Team Monaco Photo; Photo: Eric Mathon/Palais Princier
Princess Charlene with Team Monaco Photo; Photo: Eric Mathon/Palais Princier

Over eight days during the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games, there are nine disciplines – alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, stick shooting, floor ball, floor hockey, figure skating, snowboarding, speed skating and snowshoeing – held at three venues, and events are free for spectators.

Athletes are divided into groups based on criteria, such as age and ability. Like the Olympics, the top three finishers in each category are awarded gold, silver and bronze medals. And all participants are given a participation ribbon and the chance to stand on the victory podium.

Monaco’s team is made up of 17 male and 6 female representatives competing in three sports: alpine skiing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, and the Principality has earned several podium positions over the last few days.

As of Monday, March 20, in the snowshoe competition, Monaco had 7 men and 4 women: Rabab Bechti won gold in 100m, Clement Collon won silver in 100m race, Agnes Danna picked up a gold in 100m as did Khadija Danziger for division F13, and Sandra Franco won silver in 25m. Diego Bolatti, Stephane Mencarelli, Stephane Polin, Gael Ranise, Gregory Rossi, Anthony Zenati are also competing.

Five men and two women represented the Principality in alpine skiing – Yann Bouvry won bronze in Super G, Francois Dewisme got a silver for Intermediate Super G, Alain Jobert won silver in Intermediate Super G and Nathalie Stapffer picked up a silver in Novice Super G. Still on the schedule are Luca Brenna, Elsa Clement and Denis Lupo.

Meanwhile it’s an all-male team for cross-country skiing: Philippe Calmes won gold in 50m Race Classical, Gael Desbordes won silver in 50m Race Classical division M09 and Thibault Viale picked up silver in 50m Race Classical Division M10. Eric Bruno and Stephane Kelkal make up the rest of the team.

The Closing Ceremony for the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games will be held on Friday, March 24, at 7 pm.

The Special Olympics World Games take place every two years and alternate between Summer and Winter Games, a schedule similar to the Olympics and Paralympics. The 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games will be held in Abu Dhabi. (Feature image: Special Olympics 2017 Flickr)

Article first published March 20, 2017.

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