(HN, 4/17/12) - 566 athletes from 14 countries launched the 11th Central American & Caribbean Special Olympics Games in Panama on Monday & will conclude their sports on Friday. Representatives from Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, US, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic & Venezuela are competing in athletics, swimming, basketball, bowling, tennis, gymnastics & table tennis. The event opened Sunday night with a colorful sports & cultural ceremony in the Rommel Fernandez Stadium in Panama City, in the presence of prominent Panamanian athletes such as Irving Saladino, gold medalist in long jump at the Olympic Games in Beijing (2008), Celestino "Pelenchín" Caballero, featherweight interim belt of the World Boxing Association (WBA), & athletes Mateo Edward & Jorge Castel Blanco. (Read more at Special Olympics)
(HN, 3/1/12) - 2,700 people braved the coldest March day in years including, 200 Gazan athletes - to run the 2nd ever `Gaza Marathon'. At 7AM, with strong winds & a Celsius of just above zero, people were already limbering up at the start line in Beit Hanun, the N. Gaza town near Israel. Competitors, 80 of whom were foreigners, aimed for the finish line in Rafah, the S. Gaza city near Egypt; the race spans the length of the Palestinian territory. 200 Gazan athletes, including Olympic athlete Nader al-Masri who competed in the 5000 mtr race at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing; & 20 year old Olympic hopeful Bahaa al-Farra, who will compete in the 400m sprint in the London Olympic Games this August as the only representative from Gaza taking part in the games alongside 3 other Palestinians.
They include 2 women who live in the West Bank: swimmer Sabeen Kharyoon & runner Worood Maslaha; & another swimmer who is based in Cairo. The 1st Palestinian to take part in the Olympic Games was Majad abu Maraheel, in Atlanta in 1996. The marathon was organised by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA. Nader al-Masri won the marathon 2 years in a row now; this year with a time of 3 hours, 10 minutes. Gaza remains isolated, dealing with extreme poverty & continued conflict with Israel’s continuing blockade on the Palestinian territories. (Read More at PNN)