Two Special Olympic participants from Cumbernauld headed out to Los Angeles this week as part of the Great Britain team taking part in the World Games.
Footballer Shaun Wotton and badminton player Karen Lyttle left on Tuesday for the event which takes place from July 25 to August 2.
Around 6,500 athletes and 2,000 coaches representing 165 countries will take part and the event’s opening cermony will be attended by America’s First Lady Michelle Obama and feature a variety of singing stars from Stevie Wonder to Nicole Scherzinger.
Shaun (26), is originally from Cumbernauld and later moved to Kilsyth, although he now lives in Camelon.
He has learning difficulties and attended Glencryan School for special needs.
Has been playing football since he could walk and plays up front Stirling City All Stars, an award winning football club for adults 16 and over with disabilities in the Stirling and Forth Valley area.
He also won gold and silver at the Scottish seven-a-side and five-a-side competitions and represented Forth Valley at the Special Olympics National Summer Games in 2013.
Shaun’s dad Sam said that both he and Shaun’s mum Jackie were immensely proud of their son’s achievement.
He said: “He played in the Special Olympics in Bath two years ago and did well. But that was a UK event and the World Games in Los Angeles is the biggest thing he has been involved in.
“He is very excited and we are immensely proud of him. I wish we were able to as well but we’ll be glued to ESPN and online to find out how he’s getting on.”
Shaun also said he was looking forward to what he hopes will be a life changing experience and admitted the Special Olympics has changed his life.
he said: “It has helped me grow in confidence, learnt to socialise better and how to cope with my feelings and frustration better.”
Also in Team GB is Cumbernauld badminton player Karen Lyttle.
Karen (44) is a member of the Firhill Club in Glasgow and has been involved in sport for many years, firstly in athletics and then netball before taking up badminton when a knee problem put paid to her netball.
She has competed in five previous Special Olympics National Summer Games and, like Shaun, is thrilled to be part of Team GB.
She said: “I am happy to be taking part in such an exciting event. I always thought it beyond my ability and a medal would be great. I would love to win a medal for GB and my clubs, enjoy the whole occasion and meet new people.
“Special Olympics is a mean of socialising with people with similar interests. It enables me to play sports that I am interested in.
“ have gained more self-esteem as I play and compete with others at my own level. I am more confident, fit and independent. Without Special Olympics most of that would not be possible.”