The following is an interview with Hanako Sawayama, part of Singapore’s Special Olympics team. Hanako represented Singapore in the Special Olympics World Summer Games held in Dublin, Ireland in 2003, and won 1 gold medal and 2 silver medals for Bowling.
How did you start with Special Olympics?
Hanako (H): When I was 14 years old, one of my school friend’s mother asked me to join the swimming program. When I first joined the Special Olympics Singapore swimming programs, I met a lot of intellectually disabled people. My first impressions of Special Olympics athletes were different between ordinary people. Special Olympics athletes are very kind, very friendly.
What obstacles do you face? What motivates you?
H: In 1992, I transferred to Dover Court Preparatory School. When I transferred to the school, I made a lot of friends from Dover Court School and the Special Olympics Singapore swimming program. Before that, I was studying in a Japanese Secondary School. I was very shy, I have no confidence, I could not speak English at all. I did not like the Japanese Secondary School’s environment. All of my classmates hated me, some students bullied me. My classmates were not
very friendly, there were not so kind, they are cold hearted, they always think about themselves. They did not work and play as a team.
After I joined Dover Court School, I felt much better than before. I learnt English from the teachers there and I studied very hard. I made a lot of friends, and I became more confident. And also, I really like the environment in Dover Court.
I also have the words which encourage me. That is “Let Me Win, But If I Cannot Win, Let me Be Brave In The Attempt”. These words are the Special Olympics Athlete Oath, our tradition. We say this Oath, every time before we start a competition, National Games, and World Games.
How does your family support you?
H: My family supported me a lot the past ten years. My father donated Floor Hockey outfits to Special Olympics Singapore, and he also give a cheque to Special Olympics Singapore.
What is your fondest memory with the Special Olympics Singapore?
H: In 2003, I went to the Special Olympics World Summer Games, held in Dublin, Ireland. I represented the Singapore team. I won 1 Gold Medal and 2 Silver Medals for Bowling. At that time, my sister came to support me from England, where she was studying. I was very happy to see my sister supporting me. Before the World Games, I concentrated hard on my training.
After the World Summer Games, I went to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the Athlete Leadership Programs (ALPs) training. I was selected as a Sargent Shriver International Global Messenger. There are 12 International Global Messengers in the World. I was selected to represent the Asia Pacific Region. In 2005 I went to the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Nagano, Japan as an International Global Messenger. My duty was to give the opening speech at the Opening Ceremony in M-Wave (Nagano Olympic Memorial Arena).
Today I am working at the Special Olympics Asia Pacific Office in Singapore. I do administrative work and event support for Special Olympics events. I am also a volunteer and member of the Executive Committee in Special Olympics Singapore.
I am a speaker for Special Olympics fundraising and sports events, like the Pinch a Dollar Press Conference. I introduced Apolo Ohno at a skating event in Singapore.
I am proud to be a Special Olympian. We are given opportunities to train and compete in Olympic-type sports and we always do our best. We train as hard as any athlete.
Further reading on Singapore’s Special Olympics
- The Online Citizen: Don’t give up on Singapore’s Special Olympics
- Singapore Special Olympics website