Special Report by Ron Cant
HEOL Goffa Special School twin pupils have brought back to Llanelli two Olympic Gold medals and a Bronze from the Special Olympics World Winter Games held in Schladming, Austria.
It is a remarkable achievement by 17-year-old foster sisters Ruth and Tyler Charleston who have set flags flying from Llanelli civic buildings heralding three remarkable medals won in alpine skiing events at the biggest disability sports event anywhere in the world this year.
They were the only Welsh competitors from among more than 3,000 from 110 countries around the world taking part. Ruth and Tyler started skiing with their school at Pembrey Ski four years ago; joined Carmarthenshire council’s Saturday ski club and have been honing their skills as members of the West Wales Ski Club which meets at Pembrey Ski every Monday night.
They have been to Austria and France four successive years with Heol Goffa’s dedicated ski team and Tyler has been practicing all last year with the Great Britain Special Olympics GB Squad since her selection at snowdomes around the UK including Milton Keynes and Hull.
Ruth was announced as a late replacement in February for an English competitor who damaged cruciate ligaments training in Austria in January and foster parents Ron and Jacquie Cant, of Queen Victoria Road, rose to the challenge when asked by the GB squad if they could get Ruth ready with just four weeks’ notice.
Foster mum Jacquie said: “It was fate they were able to go to the Olympics together because they are so competitive they spur one another on. They have never been separated in life and being apart would have been agonising for them.
“Following the Games was a rollercoaster ride emotionally with first on March 22nd in the slalom Ruth coming fifth in her category final and then Tyler snatching gold.
“Just before the giant slalom two days later Tyler told her sister if she won another Gold she would give it to her so not to worry they would be going home with a medal each.
“Tyler stunningly whooshed through the finishing gate for her second Gold and in the same hour Ruth skied out of her boots to nail a Bronze in a much higher category forced by her late admission. Ruth’s dramatic improvement in such a short preparation time stunned the British coaches.”
“We are so proud off what the Merthyr born twins have achieved since they came to use seven years ago. In that time they have sadly lost both their mother and father. The reaction from neighbour’s family, friend and Llanelli business people who know the twins has been overwhelming. They have been showered with congratulatory cards and calls. Even Wales soccer star Gareth Bale tweeted : “Merthyr twins from Llanelli win Olympic Gold at skiing – Go Wales”
“The squad have invitations to No 10 and the Palace with celebratory party’s planned at Heol Goffa this Friday and Pembrey Ski for all their ski pals in the near future.
“The twins landed at Heathrow late on Saturday and, poignantly, the following day, Mothering Sunday, released a golden helium balloon into the heavens from Llanelli’s Millennium Coastal Park when there were a lot of emotional tears with their late Mum sharing in their success.”
Foster dad Ron said: “You cannot overstate the enormity of Ruth and Tyler’s achievement. They suffer speech dyspraxia and global delay and struggle to be accepted in the wider community because of their disability and being intellectually challenged. But they have risen above this with great panache and their passion for sport with the support of all around them. They keep fit by going on 30-mile cycle rides, swimming, skiing three times a week and attending Machynys Golf and Country Club gym.
“The Special Olympics has delivered unforgettable moments that has done wonders for the twins self-esteem. They have become welcomed, recognised and are happy and proud that people are asking for their autographs. They now know they are among the best in the world at what they do and flags have been flying in their home town for them and what they have achieved.”
“They have fabulous stories to tell of their fabulous experience and competition; of being inspired by meeting Torville and Dean and Special Olympics champion Arnold Schwarzenegger. He told them: ‘If you go through difficult situations and decide not to give up you have strength. Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles deliver your strength.’
“Gareth Bale tweeted : ‘Merthyr twins from Llanelli win gold at skiing – Go Wales’
Ron added: “The GB team as part of the wonderfully compassionate Special Olympics world movement should be commended for living up to their motto ‘Heartbeat for the World.’”
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