Ricky Dager will compete in swimming
By: María Alejandra Pulgar
Special Olympics USA will take place in Orlando in June 2022 and Doral will be represented by Ricky Dager in swimming. He is a longtime resident, has worked for the Parks and Recreation Department in the City of Doral, and has been part for the Special Olympics (SO) program for several years. He received the news of his selection to the SO Florida Swimming Team by Mayor Bermudez himself at a special ceremony.
“It is a Funny story. I was called to go back to Doral City Hall to talk to the Mayor, and the Mayor told me I was selected. I was speechless! I could not believe the news, I was so happy I wanted to cry. When he told me I thought: “I need to work hard, practice every day, and keep swimming” I was ecstatic when I found out” said Ricky.
Ricky, who has a hearing impairment, as well as ADD and Asperger’s Syndrome, has participated in different sports with SO. He was selected as a Global Messenger for the organization in 2014, and along with his parents speaks in front of other families of younger children with special needs to explain about the program and show them all the benefit this activity can bring for them.
As a swimmer representing Florida in the USA games next year Ricky expects to bring a medal home, although he says that is not the most important thing about being part of the team: “I hope I can bring a gold medal to Doral. Medal or ribbon or not, even if I do not win I am still a champion, I am still a winner. Sometimes you win medals and sometimes you don’t. But it does not mean you are not a winner, it means you have to try harder the next time. You have to keep competing and trying. If you do not win, you be brave, you keep being a good swimmer. It applies to everything in life.”
“If you like something keep getting better at it”
Elizabeth Dager, Ricky’s mom, also has been selected as one of the coaches for the team. She explained that athletes for the USA event are chosen in a drawing that includes all athletes in a discipline that have competed at regional level and placed first. They are still selecting the rest of the Florida Team and there will be an announcement from the organization at the beginning of August.
Over the years Ricky has practiced and competed locally in paddleboard, basketball, track and field, bowling, golf, flag football and swimming, where he has excelled because he is very competitive and enjoys the sport. “When you do a sport, you have to do your best. If you like something keep doing it, getting better at it.” Ricky is training hard four times a week to improve his performance “I just want to swim and go fast. I could definitely be the new Michael Phelps” he affirms laughing.
“Swimming is a very important sport, very healthy and good for your body, for your muscles and bones. When you do not swim you do not have energy to go fast”.
Ricky swims freestyle, backstroke, and butterfly, but will compete on freestyle; when training, he creates his special mindset to help him focus and swim fast: “I think about me swimming good, of me becoming Michael Phelps and have the song “Burundanga” from Celia Cruz stuck on my mind. That makes me swim fast. When you swim there is no more thinking, you got to swim and focus to swim fast, and then I swim really good!”
Special Olympics: A safe space for children and families
“When I was younger I did not have a lot of friends. I stayed home watching TV. Then my mom got a call from her friend to let her know about Special Olympics. We went and I liked it, I made friends, I got to travel. I became a Global Messenger for Special Olympics. I represented Special Olympics in front other people. Spoke to other children and their parents about it so they can join and have more people doing it.”
Participating in SO changed Ricky’s life and provided his family with a space where they could be confident that their child would be accepted, encouraged, involved, and safe. As Global Ambassador, Ricky and his parents share their experience with other families with children with special needs. “
Parents can see him and what he can do, so they see what their children can achieve. Parents see their children can have a future; it does not stop because they have a disability. SO is not only about sports, it becomes a second family. They learn life skills; see other people as role models as well. For families is great because you get a feeling of belonging” said Elizabeth, Ricky’s mother.
Children with special needs can become involved in Special Olympics at any age and there are programs for all interests. Ricky is very excited of representing his hometown at the USA games next year but his favorite thing about SO is “that you make friends, you travel with them, do different sports with them and it is fun. Now I need to train and compete I got to bring that medal home to Florida. Special Olympics is a special thing for people to help them be focused, active and be better. It is a good thing for people where they can go and make friends”.
The Athlete’s oath for Special Olympics is “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt” and that is what Ricky Dager and all other athletes will do next year when they compete on the USA Special Olympics games.
To obtain more information about the SO activities in Doral contact [email protected]