Equestrian Athlete from Finland Shares His Experiences
By Andrew Royal, 17
Scholastic News Online Student Reporters, Missouri

Sampsa Kemppinen after winning the gold in the English Equestion. (Photo courtesy Sportsfile)
June 22—Equestrian is not a sport you think of when you think about Special Olympics. If you were at the equestrian stables in Kill, Ireland, on June 22, you would have been impressed about the excitement and activity there for this Special Olympics World Games event. Hundreds of volunteers in green jackets worked with each participant's coaches to make sure both athletes and spectators were safe. In fact getting into the event itself was a challenge, even for those of us who were doing some reports about the events. Flash photography was prohibited because flashes might spook the horses. Horses are provided by the host country, so riders had to get to know their horses before competing. Both horses and athletes were tense.

When I met Finland athlete Sampsa Kemppinen, 28, he reminded me of myself when I first began participating in Special Olympics. He was shy and a bit intimidated by the camera, but when his coach began to talk about his horse and the events he was participating in, he quickly gave us a huge smile.

He told me that he had a short 3-hour flight to the games; the wait to compete seemed like a longer journey because he was excited.

Sampsa was very glad when his coached asked him to join the team and is glad to be working with her. He competed in the walk and trot events in the Masters Division.

"I am enjoying being at the World Games," Sampsa told me. "My favorite part so far has been the opening ceremonies. I was excited to see all of the entertainers."

It was somewhat difficult to interview this athlete because I had to wait on the interpreter to translate the questions and the answers. Despite my lack of understanding his language, I was sure by the wide grins and hugs that he was enjoying his time in the Equestrian competition. I am so glad that I was able to cover this event because I had not been to an equestrian event before.