Gold medals for St Albans basketball players with learning disabilities
PUBLISHED: 12:00 06 April 2019
Two St Albans men with autism and their coach have returned from Abu Dhabi with gold medals following their victory in the Special Olympics basketball tournament.
Ten players made up Team GB’s basketball squad at the World Summer Games, including locals Damir Davis and Daniel Bernard.
Basketball coach Simon Jackson-Turner, founder of St Albans-based learning difficulties initiative The Inclusion Project, has been coaching the team for 18 months in the lead-up to the event, and was excited to be able to be part of their Olympic journey.
The two players, who live in St Albans, said the experience had been phenomenal.
Damir, 26, said: “I can’t believe it. We did it, we won.
“I’m so happy.
“I’m so proud of myself, my team, my head coach Simon Jackson-Turner and the whole of the GB team.”
Daniel, 25, said: “I played my best and tried hard to work as a team and encourage my friends.
“We all got gold medals and people took lots of photos.
“I am going to keep playing basketball and I think Simon Jackson-Turner will be proud of me if I keep playing.
“It was really good and it finished with a closing ceremony. I loved Abu Dhabi.”
This was the first time in history that Britain has ever beaten America in basketball in the Special Olympics, their coach explained.
Famous people attended the games, including Hillary Clinton, and highlights of the game were on ESPN and ITV television.
The Inclusion Project was pleased to be able to fund the trio’s trip to Abu Dhabi.
Simon, 31, said: “I had to be interviewed by the Special Olympics to be a basketball coach. “I had to select a team from all over the country. It was really hard to choose. I coached them for 18 months.
“There is no greater thing for me now.
“I could not be happier or prouder of this achievement.
“We had an amazing team and morale was very strong throughout.”
The Special Olympics World Summer Games are held every four years, and there are 170 countries and a total of 7,000 athletes involved in the event.
For more information about The Inclusion Project visit: https://inclusionproject.co.uk/