Senator FIFIELD (Victoria-Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate) (19:01):
The first matter I wish to speak about is the 13th Special Olympics World Summer Games, which recently concluded in Athens. More than 7,500 athletes from 185 countries came together over the last week in Greece to compete in 21 sports across 30 different venues. Our colleague Senator McLucas was fortunate enough to join Australia’s 131 athletes who travelled to Athens to compete-and they certainly did compete. Australia won a total of 46 gold medals, 43 silver medals and 32 bronze medals, which placed Australia 8th in the medal tally.
But of course, these medals only tell part of the success story. The real success of the Special Olympics is that they put the focus back on to people’s abilities and emphasise what they can achieve, rather than the obstacles they face. Take, for example, the six Australian swimmers who swam personal bests on the first day of the games, kicking off Australia’s medal tally with one silver and two bronzes; or, the Australian women’s basketball team, who saw off fierce competition from Russia to post a 27-9 win.
There are many tales of the outstanding efforts of the Australian athletes, but there is not time to do justice to them all. I will simply say that I would encourage Australians to find out more about these inspirational athletes. Special Olympics Australia’s media partner, News Limited, has established an online World Games News Hub. It has photo galleries, athlete profiles and a lot of news and is well worth a visit.
The fantastic thing about the Special Olympics is the way that they encourage every athlete to strive for their personal best, no matter their ability. Every Special Olympian takes an oath which I think sums up the attitude of the athletes. The oath reads: ‘Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.’ It is a fantastic oath to strive to live up to. The Special Olympics World Games has provided a venue for each Australian athlete who attended to perform to the very best of their abilities.
This week, many athletes and families will be returning to Australia from Athens, having experienced the joy of pushing themselves to the limit and reaching goals that may have in the past seemed simply unattainable. I congratulate each and every Australian athlete who competed last week. I hope that each of them found new strength, new inspiration and, above all, something new about themselves and something to be proud of.
Well done to all of those athletes.