“Leander is a natural athlete”, says Special Olympics Head Golf Coach and Barbados Golf Club Instructor, Jaleel Marshall. Leander Brathwaite had become accomplished in a number of sports before adding golf to his interests. The St. Michael resident, who attends the Challenor Creative Arts and Training Centre, runs track, plays football, bocce, road tennis and cricket. His transition from the cricket bat to the golf driver has been exciting to watch.
The first time Leander took a driver in his hands at the Barbados Golf Club driving range, he stepped into a series of massive swings that easily scattered golf balls over 200 yards. The task before Leander, Coach Marshall and Leander’s dad, Samuel Brathwaite, was to channel all of that power from his cricket swing into a golf swing, and that has been accomplished. After his twice-a-week practices, which involve hitting 200 yard drives and sharpening his putting skills, Leander can be heard to say “I did good today.” Leander says he enjoys sports because he loves to play and likes the competition, and, as a Special Olympics athlete, he likes mixing with groups of other athletes.
Leander feels “very good” about the opportunity to travel to the United States and to compete against athletes from all over the world, and he wants to bring back a medal.
He is one of 26 athletes selected to attend the Special Olympics World Games, to be held July 25 through August 2 in Los Angeles, California. The World Games is the biggest sports and humanitarian event in the world in 2015, and will draw 7,000 athletes from 177 countries. Special Olympics Barbados hopes to send athletes to compete in aquatics, athletics (track and field), bocce, football and golf. Leander and female entry Desiree’ Hinds will compete in several golf skill areas, ranging from short putt to long drive.
Special Olympics Barbados is in the midst of a fundraising effort with the aim of sending a full team of 26 athletes to the World Games. In 2011, with a drive spearheaded by Digicel, Special Olympics Barbados sent a team of seven athletes to the Special Olympics World Games in Athens, Greece, and all seven returned home with gold, silver or bronze medals. Currently, Digicel has made additional contributions and has established the “Digicel Road to the World Games Fund” at CIBC First Caribbean International Bank, account number 1001111009.
Local golfers can also get directly involved in sending a full team to the World Games by playing in the Special Olympics Golf Fundraiser, May 29, at the Apes Hill Club. Teams of four can register by calling the Special Olympics Office at 426-9064.
*Photo caption: “Special Olympics golfer Leander Brathwaite displays the ‘Circle of Inclusion and Acceptance’, symbol of the 2015 Special Olympics World Games.