‘Capped off my career’: local coach leads basketball team to gold at Special Olympics World Games

Canada’s men’s Special Olympics basketball team brought home a gold medal at the World Games earlier this summer, and a coach from Simcoe County, Ont., helped make it happen.

James Richardson, 72, served as head coach for the men’s team at the 2023 Special Olympics in Berlin, Germany.

He says the team did amazingly well, winning all their games and bringing home a gold medal for Team Canada.

“The excitement at the end of the gold medal game was something to behold. The players were jumping around, they were screaming, they were hugging,” Richardson told Global News.

Canada men’s team at the 2023 Special Olympics in Berlin, Germany after winning gold. Photo by John Stremble via Special Olympic's Canada

The team won the final match against South Africa, bringing home one of 46 gold medals for Canada. Canada’s national team also brought home 20 silver medals and 30 bronze during this year’s world competition.

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Having been involved with South Simcoe Special Olympics for the last 35 years, getting to lead the team to victory in Berlin was a proud moment for Richardson.

“For me to be able to get to go to the World Games in Berlin, it really capped off my career. I’m so pleased that I was able to be a part of this.”

Canada men’s team at the 2023 Special Olympics in Berlin, Germany after winning gold. Supplied by James Richardson

First starting as a backyard summer camp in 1968, Special Olympics has grown into a global sports competition for people with intellectual disabilities.

From June 17-25, Berlin welcomed 7,000 Special Olympics athletes and partners from approximately 190 countries worldwide with 26 sports.

As a coach local for basketball and softball, Richardson has wasted no time getting back into coaching the local Special Olympics softball team and getting ready to coach the local basketball team in the fall.

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“It has become a great avenue for people with intellectual disabilities to gather in a sports environment, to learn new skills, to be involved with fellow Special Olympians, to have fun together, and to be able to join together and create something that’s very special, whether it’s just at the local level … provincial level or national level,” he said.

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