Athletes with Down Syndrome have an average of 11 physical impairments as well as an Intellectual Impairment. They are eligible for Paralympic selection but only in the category of Intellectual Impairment. Despite training and competing at an elite level in many sports including swimming, athletics, tennis, equestrian and basketball people with Down syndrome rarely make a Paralympic team, if ever.
Olivia is driving the campaign: ‘Change The Box’ - to see athletes with Down syndrome given their own box to showcase their talents.
Olivia was thrilled to have her Change.org petition supported by US Olympian Greg Louganis and our own Dame Quentin Bryce. She was beyond excited when Harry Styles and Niall Horan from One Direction also lent their support!
Told she would never speak, Olivia uses the gift she was to be denied, advocating for change and equality. She has taken her message across Australia, through the UK to Scotland and addressed the United Nations in New York. Tireless in her efforts, she genuinely has a message that she wants the world to hear and the world has listened.
Virtus, the organisation for international sports competition in intellectual impairment has embraced this issue. They have introduced Category II2 for international competition. Athletes with both physical and intellectual impairments can now compete on a level playing field.
This category is also available in school sport, Athletics Australia and Swimming Australia. Opportunities are increasing and development of grass roots pathways are now available for emerging athletes with Down syndrome and other disabilities.
The adoption of Cat II2 by the Paralympics is still to come but Olivia is assured it is only a few years away and she remains determined to see it happen.