Monday, October 15, 2007

Athletes return with medals

Alaska athletes returned on October 14th with many medals. Here are the final results from Shanghai.

Whitney Davis, runner,* Juneau
100 M Run 4th place 00:22.5
200 M Run 4th place 00:51.7
4x100 Relay 2nd place 01:24.5

Melanie Flowers, swimmer,* Mat-Su
25 M Backstroke 4th place 00:49.1
50 M Backstroke 3rd place 01:44.2
4x25 Relay 3rd place 01:54.0

Jeremy Hartman, swimmer,* Mat-Su
25M Backstroke 3rd place 00:29.5
50M Freestyle 4th place 00:59.5
4x25 Relay 1st place 01:46.1

Bobby Hill, powerlifter,** Eagle River
Bench Press 2nd place 92.5 K
Combo 2nd place
Dead lift 2nd place 140.0K
Squat lift 2nd place 142.5K
*rounding occurs, see links at right for official times
** times are best of 3

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Newsweek article on Games

By Duncan Hewitt and Melinda Liu

Oct. 1, 2007 issue - Shanghai is different from most Chinese cities. Even before the birth of the People's Republic in 1949, the Shanghainese were more Western, more worldly and, yes, more wealthy. read full text

HIll wins 4 silver medals

Anchorage, Alaska– Alaska powerlifter Bobby Hill earned four second place medals in the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghai. Hill is a member of Team USA and resides in Eagle River.

Hill’s best results for each event include:
bench press-92.5 kg
dead lift-140.00 kg
squat lift-142.5 kg
combination-238.7 final score

Other Team USA athletes from Alaska continued to compete in Shanghai. Results for events held Oct. 9 &10 include:

Melanie Flowers, Mat-Su 25M Backstroke 45:83 4th place
Jeremy Hartman, Mat-Su 25M Backstroke 30:59 3rd place
Whitney Davis, Juneau 100 M Run 22:48 4th place
200 M Run 51:73 4th place

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Hartman, Flowers medal in Shanghai

Anchorage, Alaska– Alaska swimmer Jeremy Hartman, Wasilla, earned a gold medal in the 4x25 meter freestyle relay. Hartman is a member of Team USA, competing in the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghai. Hartman’s team completed the relay in 1:46:12, shaving 10 seconds off of their preliminary round time.

Fellow Alaskan Melanie Flowers won two third place medals in swimming. Flowers swam as a member of Team USA in the 4x25 meter relay with a team time of 1:54:00. In the 50 meter backstroke, Flowers placed third with a time of 1:44:23. Flowers is also from the Mat-Su Valley.

Alaska Speaker of the House John Harris and Senator Lesil McGuire joined several other Alaskans in congratulating the swimmers in Shanghai (see photo). Harris and McGuire are members of the board of directors of Special Olympics Alaska.

Monday, October 8, 2007


Taxi-cab has been the preferred means of transportation in Shanghai. Cabs are abundant, fairly inexpensive, and a quick way to hop from place to place (traffic permitting). Taking a taxi requires a little bit of skill, however. Drivers don’t speak English so you have to show a map or address written in Chinese. Cabs have seatbelts in the front seat, but none to be found in the back. That’s a pity because driving in Shanghai really boosts the adrenaline. Vehicles cut in front of one another and large buses edge in on teeny sedan taxis. Most roads are two or three lanes, but the space between vehicles is sparse. I could easily reach out and touch the next vehicle from the always-open window.

We met a teacher from Mat-Su who is here working and she schooled us in taxi safety. Certain color cabs are a better choice – blue, light blue, teal, green. Make sure the cab has a phone number on the side. Some cabs look okay, but have no number and they’re generally a maroon color. Apparently these are “independents” and traveling in circles with these cabbies is common as they don’t know the area very well.

Even though vehicles dart in front of each other, navigate through bikes, and make unexpected U-turns, we didn’t see many accidents. That’s a good thing --- our friend from Mat-Su said if your taxi is in an accident, pay your bill and walk away. Expatriates in taxi accidents could be held liable.


The word of the day is "yu," rain, in Chinese. I couldn't find the word for typhoon,
Shanghai got the side-effects of a typhoon that impacted Taiwan. For fifteen hours rain has poured from the sky. Hopping from the curb to cab leaves you drenched from your head to your saturated shoes. Even our hotel, an upscale Sheraton, had to stuff rolls of towels under the front doors to keep the water out.

Shanghai residents are going about their business --- still riding bikes and motor scooters to work. Most Chinese carry umbrellas, using them to shelter from rain or sun.

Track and field athletes, including Whitney Davis, had to sit out today as games were postponed.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Swimmers in 4x25

SHANGHAI, People’s Republic of China – Swimmers Melanie Flowers and Jeremy Hartman competed in swimming events today as part of Special Olympics World Summer Games. Flowers events today were her first since arriving in Shanghai. She placed third in the 50 meter backstroke preliminary competition, with a time of 1:41:17. Flowers also swam the anchor leg for Team USA in the 4 x 25 meter relay. Flowers and her teammates placed second in the preliminary round, finishing in 1:47:04.
Jeremy Hartman swam the second leg for Team USA in the men’s 4 x 25 meter relay. The team finished fourth with a time of 1:56:80.

Hartman and Flowers are both from the Mat-Su Valley. Final rounds for the men’s and women’s 4 x 25 meter relay and women’s 50 meter backstroke take place on Monday. Both athletes also compete on Tuesday.

Fellow Team USA athletes from Alaska include Whitney Davis, runner, and Bobby Hill, powerlifter. Four Alaska athletes and one coach are participating in the World Games. Competition began October 3 and runs until October 11.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Davis bests qualifying time in 100 M

SHANGHAI, People’s Republic of China – Runner Whitney Davis, Juneau, completed his first race in the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games. Davis finished the 100 meter preliminary race in 23.37. Davis qualified for the race with a time of 24.77. Immediately after the race, Davis said he felt “great” about his performance.

Davis will continue to compete in sprints and in the long jump. Fellow Team USA swimmers from Alaska, Melanie Flowers and Jeremy Hartman will compete tomorrow in swimming. Powerlifter Bobby Hill competes on Tuesday.

Word of the Day -- Shui

Shui means water, in Chinese. Our athletes and honored guests have to drink lots of water to stay hydrated. It's hot here and some of us are still adjusting to jet lag and life in another country. Water helps -- but it's not safe to drink the local tap water. The Chinese have provided lots of bottled water. There are cases of it everywhere.

Generally, the bottled water is not as cold as we like it in the US. Some is refrigerated, but the fridge temps aren't as chilly as we keep them at home. Adding ice to your drink isn't sucha great idea, either. You can't really be sure the ice you get is from purified water.

Speaking of water, it's good to use lots of it to wash your hands frequently. We're also carrying handi-wipes and hand sanitizer to keep us healthy. The bathroom facilities are pretty clean, albeit not all toilets are like the ones we have at home (more on that later). Sometimes it's hard to find soap or paper towels in the bathrooms. Hardy Alaskans that we are, we've come prepared!

Hartman takes fourth

Swimmer Jeremy Hartman, Wasilla, is the first Alaskan to receive an award in the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games. Hartman placed fourth in the 50 meter freestyle race with a time of 59:54. Alaska Speaker of the House John Harris presented Jeremy his award at the ceremony. Harris is a board member of Special Olympics Alaska.

Hartman will continue to compete, entering the 25 meter back stroke and the 4x25 meter relay. Hartman and fellow Team USA swimmer Melanie Flowers are from the Mat-Su Valley. Flowers will compete beginning Sunday.

Four Alaska athletes and one coach are participating in the World Games. Competition began October 3 and runs until October 11.

Special Olympics Alaska is an accredited program of Special Olympics Inc., a global organization that has provided sports training and competition to people with intellectual disabilities since 1968. In Alaska, Special Olympics serves more than 1,500 athletes in 18 communities statewide through local community training programs.

For more information about Special Olympics programs and volunteer opportunities, call SO-AK at (907) 250-9535.
Photos by Scott Minor.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Great youth summit quotes

Special Olympics is about inclusion and acceptance. It raises everyone's potential, with or without disabilities. Wherever Special Olympics goes in the world, it brings out the best in people. -Colin Farrell

If someone says something about me, I prove I am capable with my actions. - Athlete

I am not stupid! I can do anything you can do. I am capable by my actions. - Athlete

Take a lesson--Time has come to stop discrimination and show our humanity. At some point we will all be rejected; we should remember that. - Bianca Jagger

We all come into life with different circumstances. We all need dignity, love, respect. These are not so special needs. It's time we gave them to all humans. - Soeren Palumbo, partner

Global Youth Summit got its start in Anchorage

2007 Special Olympics Global Youth Summit

Today, 58 young people from 16 countries participated in a televised Global Youth Summit. The Youth Summit got its start in Anchorage during the 2001 World Winter Games.

The youth summit concept was developed by Alaskans Nicolle Egan and former Commissioner of Education Shirley Holloway. Alaska’s youth continue their groun-breaking efforts to eliminate barriers and promote partnerships among youth. In Alaska, we have had 5 youth summits since 2001. The next summit takes place next week during the Alaska Association of School Governments fall conference. Alaska youth also participate in Partners Clubs, unified sports teams and unified challenge day. This summer, Special Olympics Alaska hosted Camp Shriver, a two week sports camp for youth with and without intellectual disabilities.

In Shanghai, today’s broadcast offically launched the Special Olympics Youth Fan Club in an MTV-style town hall meeting. These young leaders, include students with and without intellectual disabilities who work in pairs. The fan club goal is to get other to volunteer for Special Olympics, join the campaign to eliminate the “r” word (retard), share their stories and give by raising funds for Special Olympics around the world.

Soeren Palumbo from Illinois is passionate about the campaign to eliminate the “r” word. Read Palumbo’s comments on the topics.

Jeremy Hartman Swims 50 Freestyle

Alaska's first athlete to compete in the World Summer Games, Jeremy Hartman, hit the water today in the 50 Freestyle. Hartman's coach, Deb Doman from Chico, CA, said Jeremy was ready to swim. Jeremy swam the heat in 57:35, close to his qualifying time of 56:81. Jeremy swims again on Friday in the 50 Freestyle final. Many Alaskans were on hand to see Jeremy compete. Photos by Scott Minor.

Healthy Athletes-as told by Dr. Steve Perlman

Once each year Alaska's Special Olympics athletes get unique access to health care through the Healthy Athletes program held at summer games. The Alaska program is run by Dr. Michael Kropp and has operated in the state for seven years.

In China, Dr. Steve Perlman retold the story of how Healthy Athletes began.

In the 1990s Rosemary Kennedy’s dental team intended to remove all of her teeth and they contacted Eunice Kennedy Shriver for permission. Shriver refused to allow the procedure and went searching for a new dentist for her sister. Dr. Steve Perlman of Boston University was selected. Perlman was a pediatric specialist willing to treat Kennedy, an adult. As Perlman tells the story, Kennedy needed to be hospitalized for the procedure and other medical professionals were consulted about her medical needs. Myriad health issues were addressed during her brief hospitalization.

After her sister’s successful treatment, Shriver asked Perlman to “teach me everything you know” about health issues among the intellectually disabled. Through this relationship, the Healthy Athletes program was born.

Healthy Athletes provides screening in hearing, fitness, vision, dentistry and other areas. Athletes receive direct services and preventive care in a one-stop environment. They are treated by volunteers trained in the special health needs of the intellectually disabled.

According to Perlman, individuals with intellectual disabilities are underserved by the medical community in the US and elsewhere. Perlman is committed to getting this population designated as "radically underserved" by the U.S. government so funding and services would increase.

Since 1997, Healthy Athletes has screened more than 500,000 athletes and trained more than 50,000 health professionals and volunteers. Alaskan Kathy Privatsky has been a volunteer with the program since World Winter Games in Anchorage. Privatsky will provide hearing and speech screenings in Shanghai.

Watch for a future post on the “Opening Eyes” program.

Phrase of the Day: I Win!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Word of the Day--Ni Hao

The word of the day is Ni Hao (nee-how). Ni Hao means Hello in Chinese.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Opening Ceremonies Extravaganza

SHANGHAI, People’s Republic of China – Fifteen Alaskans attended Special Olympics World Summer Games Opening Ceremonies as honored guests. In Shanghai Stadium 5,800 performers entertained 80,000 spectators on hand to welcome Special Olympics athletes from around the world. The performance included dancers, musicians, celebrities, light shows and fireworks.

Athletes and guests were entertained by international celebrities, including Yo-Yo Ma, Jackie Chan, Colin Farrell, NBA star Yao Ming, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver. The show included a tribute to Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of Special Olympics and tireless advocate for people with intellectual disabilities.

Throughout the week, Alaska’s honored guests will cheer on athletes and participate in forums on serving the needs of those with intellectual disabilities. Honored guests include:
Craig Gales and spouse, Lori. Gales is Chairman of the Board of Special Olympics Alaska.
Ken Privatsky and spouse, Kathy. Ken Privatsky is Chair-Elect of the Board of SO-AK. Kathy Privatsky is a long-time volunteer working in the Healthy Athletes program.
Alaska Speaker of the House, John Harris and spouse, Nicole. Harris is a member of the board of SO-AK.
John Walsh, Secretary of the board of SO-AK.
Representative Bob Lynn.
Commissioner of Public Safety Walt Monegan and spouse, Terri. Monegan is in China in support of law enforcement official Terry Vrabec, a runner in the final leg of the Law Enforcement Torch Run.
Vern Hall, donor and avid fan of SO-AK.
Alaska Senator Lesil McGuire will join the group later in the week. McGuire is a board member. Also in Shanghai are Special Olympics staff members Jim Balamaci and Nicolle Egan and volunteers Michelle Egan and Scott Minor. Balamaci is President and CEO of SO-AK; Nicolle Egan is Vice-President and COO. Michelle Egan is volunteer media liaison and Minor is a photographer.

Four Alaska athletes and one coach are participating in the World Games. Competition begins October 3 and runs until October 11.

Special Olympics Alaska is an accredited program of Special Olympics Inc., a global organization that has provided sports training and competition to people with intellectual disabilities since 1968. In Alaska, Special Olympics serves more than 1,500 athletes in 18 communities statewide through local community training programs.

For more information about Special Olympics programs and volunteer opportunities, call SO-AK at (907) 250-9535.

Monday, October 1, 2007

VIPs experience Special Olympics

Many celebs and VIPs joined athletes at the "Sports Experience"--a chance for athletes and VIPs to play side-by-side.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Xie Xie

The Chinese word of the day is “thank you.” In Chinese it is pronounced “shay shay.”

Last night I arrived in Shanghai with Alaska Speaker of the House John Harris and his wife Nicolle. We were welcomed by banners at the airport and many young Chinese volunteers. Special O staffers Jim Balamaci and Nicolle Egan picked us up and helped us get a taxi.

We quickly learned to say “xie xie" (shay shay) to the helpful volunteers who swarmed in, loaded our luggage and helped translate for the taxi driver.

Many Chinese speak excellent English. In fact, there are more students in China learning English than there are in the US. However, taking a taxi can be a confusing experience, because most taxi drivers to not speak English. There are a few tricks for getting to the right destination.

Trick #1-Hotels have cards with common destinations written on them in English and Chinese. We gave one of these cards to our driver.

Trick #2-Hotel staff speak excellent English and Chinese. We learned to call the hotel desk by cell phone and tell the staff where we wanted to go. Then, you hand the phone to the driver and the hotel can give him directions in Chinese.

Trick #3-This one works during Special Olympics. Find one of the many teen volunteers wearing Special O T-shirts. Tell them where you are headed and allow them to translate for the driver. We were very impressed with the poise of the young men that met us. Their English was perfect and we felt confident thanks to their support.

Xie xie local volunteers!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Math activity: How much does it cost?

China's currency (money) is called yuan, also known as renminbi, which translates to "people's currency." When shopping in China, you cannot use US money. You have to get the bank to change your US dollars into yuan. You can also get yuan from the ATM.

This morning I went to the ATM and took out 200 yuan. I went shopping, but I had to figure out what things cost by doing some math. See if you can figure out what some common items cost in US dollars.

Every US dollar is the same as about 7.5 yuan.
1 US dollar = 7.5 yuan

When you want to know how much something in China costs in US dollars, DIVIDE the price by 7.5.
Here's an example -- A snack costs 15 yuan. How much does it cost in US dollars?
15 yuan / 7.5 = 2 dollars

If you like, you can try estimating, but just dividing by 7. That's what I do while shopping.

Here are some examples for you to try (see these items online at

Candy-14.90 yuan = ______________ US dollars

Backpack-79 yuan = ______________ US dollars

Lego Bionicle-75 yuan= ______________ US dollars

Barbie - 148 yuan= ______________ US dollars

Melon - 2.5 yuan = ______________ US dollars

Shoes, skater style - 59 yuan = ______________ US dollars

In-line skates - 128 yuan = ______________ US dollars

Cell phone-3318 yuan =______________ US dollars