Photo of Stacey and her horse Shorty

In just 4 days, almost 1000 athletes will be in Melbourne to compete at the Special Olympics National Games, which is looking to be the biggest and most exciting national event yet! 

With the Games almost upon us, what better way to celebrate than profile one of the very talented athletes who will be representing Victoria in Melbourne!

It has taken a lot of hard work for 17-year-old Stacey Vassallo and her horse Shorty, to earn a place at this year’s Special Olympics National Games competition, which is looking to be the largest national games in the organisation’s history.

“It’s the first time I am taking part in the Olympics … I do everything from show jumping to dressage,” Stacey said.

A win at the competition, to be held between October 20 and 25 in Melbourne, means Stacey can compete at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles next year. 

“I would like to represent Australia … I will feel very proud” she said.

Dad Charles Vassallo said Stacey along with Gemma-Mae Stemp were the only two girls to qualify from Melton for the competition.

“It has taken Stacey two years to qualify for the team,” Mr Vassallo said. “It’s something she has wanted to do for a long time. [The Games] suits her abilities; it gives her something to strive for … all her hard work is paying off."

Mr Vassallo said the girls were also looking for sponsors to cover their associated costs including entry fees for the competition.

Special Olympics Australia chief executive Nicola Stokes said the organisation was in need of 800 volunteers. The volunteers would help support almost 1000 athletes with an intellectual disability competing in 16 Olympic-style and demonstration sports.

“Volunteer positions are available in a range of areas including spectator ­services, team liaison and support, medical and ­welfare services plus ­information and communication technology,” Ms Stokes said.

She said the games would help change attitudes and dispel myths about people with disabilities.

To help sponsor Stacey Vassallo and Gemma-Mae Stemp call Charles Vassallo on 0405 406 890.

For information on how to volunteer, or about the Games, go to specialolympics2014.org.au 

(Article courtesy of Neelima Choahan, Leader Community Newspaper West and Special Olympics Australia).