Special athletes in medals haul

By Martin Conaghan in Shanghai The Special Olympics World Summer Games are well and truly underway now in Shanghai, and the British athletes are already making their

mark on this magnificent city.

Not only has Team GB notched up an impressive tally of early winners' medals, but the athletes have participated in the variety of Host Town activities, which are designed to welcome them to the city and introduce them to Chinese culture.

The Shanghai experience continues to amaze both the competitors, and my fellow-BBC colleagues.

The chaotic traffic, the tireless appetite for food and entertainment, the infinitely mild manners of the local people and the mind-bogglingly high skyscrapers make it one of the most mesmerising places I've ever known in my life.

But it's the athletes who have made the biggest impression on all of us here, with their boundless enthusiasm, their fighting spirit, and the pride they instill in their colleagues, carers, coaches, friends and family.

Earlier this week, Ionutsa McLelland from Dingwall notched up a silver medal, along with Zoe Kane, Sarah Paschoud and Laura Jarvis in the women's 4 x 50m relay swim.

Zoe also managed to pick up silver in the 800m freestyle, and Sarah also earned silver in the 100m freestyle.

When I greeted Sarah outside the massive aquatics complex shortly after her win, she was beaming with pride.

"I totally love my medal," said Sarah.

"I don't know what country the girl who won gold was from, but I like the silver medal."

The Special Olympians all have a story to tell, and Ionusta McLelland's is very special indeed.

She was orphaned as a child in Romania, and was subsequently adopted in to a Scottish family at age five.

Her mother could hardly contain her joy when she watched Ionusta's team earn their well-deserved silver.

But it's not just silver medals the British team will be taking home from the swimming events, Ryan Peterson snatched gold in the men's 50m freestyle, and David Fergus from Lothian added a second in the 100m freestyle.

Earlier this week, David spent a day with a Chinese family, and experienced some traditional home cooking.

Routine is everything to David, and while he found the mastering of chopsticks more of a challenge than taking to the pool, he appeared to enjoy the experience and it seemed to set him up for a terrific individual performance.

Also on the medal table were equestrian riders Mellisa Niven and Jennifer Moug, earning gold and a well-merited bronze respectively.

It may not seem like elite sport from the other side of the planet, but when you see the faces of the athletes as they collect their rewards, nothing else matters in the whole world.

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