In a momentous achievement, two students from the Draktsho Vocational Training Centre in Bhutan have brought home gold and silver medals from the prestigious Special Olympics World Games held in Berlin, Germany. Nima Yeozer, a 17-year-old student with an intellectual disability, displayed extraordinary prowess in athletics by clinching two gold medals in the 100-meter race and shot-put events. Equally impressive was 18-year-old Dechen Peldon, who secured a silver medal in the women’s shot-put category. Both athletes represented Special Olympics Bhutan on the global stage.
Deki Zam, the Executive Director of Draktsho, praised the outstanding performance of these athletes, emphasizing their remarkable journey from the quarterfinals to the semifinals and ultimately to the grand finale. Nima’s flawless execution in the shot-put event left spectators in awe of his talent and dedication.
Despite their triumphs, Draktsho faces considerable financial challenges, as the organization is not currently registered under any sports association. Deki Zam revealed that they are actively working towards affiliating with the Bhutan Olympic Committee to address this issue. While they received support from their Majesties during the 2015 Special Olympics, the organization has had to rely on its own resources in 2019 and this year, making financial sustainability a significant hurdle, particularly in the post-Covid period.
The Executive Director noted that fundraising within Bhutan has proven to be exceedingly difficult, further complicating their financial situation. Despite these hardships, she stressed the positive impact of sports achievements on the athletes, citing increased self-esteem and confidence. Many past medal-winning athletes have gone on to start their own businesses and become advocates for individuals with disabilities.
Participation in international events also provides these athletes with eye-opening experiences, expanding their horizons and enriching their lives. However, Deki Zam lamented the lack of recognition and acknowledgment for athletes with disabilities in Bhutan. She contrasted the accolades received by winners in various other sports with the relative obscurity faced by disabled athletes, even when they attain the highest levels of success.
She declared, “Our athletes with disabilities deserve the same level of recognition and acknowledgment as their able-bodied counterparts.” Expressing disappointment over the insufficient recognition they have received thus far, Deki Zam voiced hope that this year marks a turning point in recognizing and celebrating the achievements of persons with disabilities in the country.
The Special Olympics World Games, an esteemed international sporting event for athletes with intellectual disabilities, encompasses a wide range of sports disciplines. This year, Bhutan proudly participated in track and field events, represented by four exceptional students from Draktsho. The event witnessed the participation of over 7,000 athletes from nearly 170 countries, competing in 24 diverse sports disciplines.