Special Stories Capture the Spirit of World Games Athletes
Posted June 30, 1999 7:00 a.m. EDT
CHAPEL HILL — TheSpecial Olympics World Summer Gamesbrings together thousands of athletes from 150 different countries. While their cultures may be different, these athletes have a lot in common -- including incredible talent, determination, and stories.
The Power of One: One Special Olympics athlete hopes for some company in future World Games. You see, it's not that Naaman Felfel is lonely; he is the lone member of the Libyan team.
Libya became a member of the Special Olympics movement last February, giving organizers little time to assemble a team for the World Summer Games. Libyan officials could only find one athlete ready and willing to go.
"Because Felfel is the best in Libya and he's always training, we prepared him for this competition within a few days or even a few months," says coach Fathi Lashehab.
Felfel competes in power lifting and the 5-meter breast stroke. He and his coach are lifting the heavy weight of tense relations between Libya and the United States with a smile and a handshake.
Belarus Orphans Find Spirit of their Homeland in N.C. A special cheering section was a sideline surprise for the Belarus soccer team. The athletes making up the team are all orphans. Unlike most other competitors, they do not have family members cheering them on.
The spirit of their homeland rang loud and clear at Thursday's game at the WRAL Soccer Fields. Fellow Belarussians who were exposed to radiation during the Chernobyl disaster are in North Carolina receiving treatment. They took a break from their hospital rooms to root for their home team.
The Belarus team won the match against Pakistan, 3-0. After the game, the athletes spent some time celebrating their win by talking with their new fans from home.
Brothers Make Golfing a Family Affair: In some cases, World Games competition is a family affair. Several teams competing in the World Games are made up of brothers.
Sean and Rich McKenna have a lot of support as they take on the Washington Duke Golf Course. More than a dozen family members have travelled from Massachusetts to watch and cheer.
The brothers play together on a unified team, which partners athletes with and without mental disabilities. It is obvious that Sean's mental disability has brought the McKenna family even closer, and has made this brotherhood remarkable.
Sean and Rich love competing against other unified teams, but what they love most is being together.
"Just walking down the fairways with him and looking over and seeing all these guys, it's great. I wouldn't miss it for the world," says Rich, who cannot help but get choked up as he talks about his brother and teammate.
Where Rich leaves off, Sean picks up.
"It's all that counts," he says. "It's all that matters because we're brothers and we'll be brothers all the time."