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Schools World Service

Jemma's Special Journey - Primary School Resources

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13 year old Jemma is the youngest of Team GB's squad in Athens at the Special Olympics World Games. Duration 6,38

JEMMA'S JOURNEY BEGINS

Jemma is 13 and has almost finished her first year at secondary school in Wales.

She loves gymnastics and is getting ready to take part in a big competition - the Special Olympics World Games.

She had an operation on her foot and on her hand. We never thought she'd walk properly, so she's done a lot more than we ever thought was possible
Jemma's Dad Barry

The competition happens every four years and this year it's in Athens, the capital of Greece. Like the Olympics and Paralympics, athletes from all over the world take part in different sports to win medals. The difference with this competition is that the athletes taking part have learning disabilities. People with learning disabilities find it harder to communicate, understand and learn.

Jemma has Down's Syndrome. This is a condition that affects about 60,000 people in the UK and millions worldwide. People with Down's Syndrome have different levels of learning disabilities, but Jemma goes to a normal local school and is just like any other teenager who enjoys dancing, playing football and listening to her favourite pop stars, especially Justin Bieber.

Jemma relaxing at her home with her sisters.
Jemma relaxing at her home with her sisters, Katy and Joelle.

Her family are very proud of her. Jemma's mum and dad would never have believed when Jemma was born that she'd be able to achieve what she has and Jemma's Dad Barry was worried she may never walk properly.

'The outlook in the beginning wasn't very good. She had an operation on her foot and on her hand.

Jemma in training with Coach Victoria
She's been training so much harder this year, she's had lots of training sessions and also body preparation that we never really thought about before
Coach Victoria

We never thought she was going to go to go to mainstream school and we never thought she'd walk properly, so she's done a lot more than we ever thought was possible,' he said.

Jemma will be Team GB's youngest competitor. She will battle it out in four gymnastic events: the floor, the beams, the asymmetric bars and the vault.

Jemma's taken part in lots of competitions. Last year she won three medals at the European games in Luxembourg. Jemma's coach Victoria is hoping she will do well in Athens.

'She's been training so much harder this year, she's had lots of training sessions and also body preparation that we never really thought about before.

When we go out to Athens, we'll have the opening ceremony and then we'll have four days of gymnastics competition. She's very good at the floor; she has a lot of emotion in her dance.'

Jemma practises everywhere. There's a beam in her hallway, a mat in her living room and even a bar in her bedroom, but stepping out in front of the huge crowds in Athens is very different to performing for your family.

ARRIVING IN ATHENS

Jemma's family watch from the stands in Athens.
We couldn't believe how great Jem was out there. When we saw her waving and smiling at us we knew she was having the time of her life
Jemma's sister Joelle

Jemma went to Greece a week before her competition to get used to the hot weather. All the preparations were going well until the British team was struck down by a nasty tummy bug.

Lots of the team were too ill to compete in the first few days of the competition, including Jemma. At first it looked unlikely that Jemma would compete at all.

Jemma's sisters and mum and dad went to Athens to watch her, but when they found out that she had been poorly they were worried that the pressure may have been too much for her.

After three days' in bed, Jemma had recovered to take part. Watching Jemma and her team mates enter the arena was a nervous time for her family, but Jemma's older sister Joelle was so pleased with how cool her sister was under pressure.

'We couldn't believe how great Jem was out there. When we saw her waving and smiling at us we knew she was having the time of her life,' she said.

PROUD TO TAKE PART

As Jemma was not well enough to compete in the first few days, she didn't win a medal, but to perform in front of the crowds was a big triumph.

At only 13, Jemma has many more Special Olympic World Games in front of her and she's determined to take part again and be stronger than ever.

Jemma practices her routine on the beam.
Jemma practices her routine on the beam in Athens.


Schools World Service is a BBC British Council co-production



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