July 23, 2016 - 10:51 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - The Italian city of Florence hosted the first world competition for athletes with Down's Syndrome, and Nicole Orlando and Nicolas Virapin made it to the victory podium in the Tuscan city -- a first step, they hope, on the path to Olympic glory, AFP reports.
Orlando, a runner from Italy who has become the face of the "Trisome Games," scooped up the silver for a 400-metres relay, sending her flag-waving delegation leaping into each others arms with joy as the national anthem rang out.
Almost 1,000 contenders from 36 countries spent the week here fighting for gold in a series of categories from athletics to fusbol, judo, rhythmic gymnastics, swimming, synchronised swimming, tennis and table tennis.
The athletes taking part are dubbed T21s, named after the most common form of Down's Syndrome, trisomy 21, where sufferers have an extra copy of chromosome 21.
"The Trisome Games are a unique opportunity to distinguish the T21 and bring them into the light", Marc Truffaut, head of the French Adaptive Sports Federation (FFSA), told AFP.
The Trisome Games were created by Marco Borzacchini, president of the FISDIR (the Italian Federation of Sports for Intellectually and Relationally Disabled), who believes they will help challenge stereotypes surrounding T21 athletes.
"The games are the culmination of a long process which began more than 10 years ago to enable people with Down's Syndrome to experience sport as something other than mere entertainment," he said, according to AFP.
"It was generally thought they could only play around or enjoy themselves with sports, but actually they are capable of high quality sporting performances just like conventional athletes."
With the Olympic Games opening in a few weeks time in Brazil, organisers here are abuzz with plans to try to reintroduce Down's Syndrome athletes to the world's most prestigious competition.