A woman holds an award and stands next to a man.

Kiera was presented with the AIPS Recognition Award by Emanuele Fantaniano, Member of the AIPS Executive Committee.

Special Olympics’ Keira Belland He was one of the prominent speakers at World Congress of the International Sports Press Association A meeting will be held in Barcelona, ​​Spain, this week.

Byland gave a powerful speech at the event, which celebrated the 100th anniversary of the global sports media body. Challenging 400 global sports journalists to reform their thinking when it comes to inclusion in sport, Byland said it was time to introduce inclusive practices into the day-to-day management of media organisations.

“100 years ago, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities like me were invisible. We hid away from a society that misunderstood us, feared us, and even wondered why we existed. For someone with IDD like me to be a great athlete was unimaginable.

“The idea that women and girls with ADD could also be tennis players, soccer players, runners, swimmers, or, like me, cyclists, was so crazy that even the best sports journalists at the time could not have imagined it.” “I never dreamed of such a story.”

She was elected by her sporting peers in Berlin World Games Last summer to represent 4 million athletes at Special Olympics International, Byland charted her personal journey as a young girl with Intellectual disabilities Growing up in Bolton, England, he struggled to find acceptance and understanding.

“Growing up as a person with IDD, I struggled to fit in, and I struggled to find my place in the world. At school, I was bullied because I didn’t fit in with my surroundings, I did weird things, and I wasn’t ‘normal.’ I was isolated, and I felt Insulted by others, they mocked me, mocked me, shocked me, all because I was different, but I was just me.

“It got so bad, I had no self-worth, no self-worth, and I hurt myself because of it.”

However, when Keira turned 15, she began to discover that her love of sport, especially cycling, was helping her make friends and build her confidence.

A woman walks across the stage holding an award.

Keira Belland, BEM at the AIPS Sport Media Awards

“When I was 15, one of my peers stood up for me in the schoolyard, challenged the bullies, went to the same bike club as me, and had to introduce me to the ‘real me.’

“In 2014, I was introduced to Special Olympics through… Cycling And swimming. I know it may sound a bit dramatic, but exercise changed my life, and saved me.

Determined to pursue her sporting passion, Keira dedicated herself to training and competing, and in the following years participated in sporting events at national, regional and international levels.

She won six gold medals as a cyclist competing in two separate Special Olympics World Games, in Los Angeles in 2015 And Abu Dhabi in 2019.

Keira embraced her leadership skills, also trained as a coach, and although she faced many challenges along the way, she completed her university education and obtained diplomas and certificates in sports coaching, marketing and business ventures.

In 2021, Keira received the A.A OBE from Queen Elizabeth In recognition of her services to sport.

“I have finally found my place in the world; “I knew then that it was time for me to become a voice for others like me who struggle with gender dysphoria,” Keira told the assembled sports media.

“I am a passionate sports coach; I am a Level 2 British Cycling Coach and a Level 2 Swimming Instructor. Helping other athletes with IDD participate in sports is my mission. One of my goals as well Congress chair It is to inspire other women and girls to follow my path, find a sport they love, participate in it, stay involved and find their voice, and then share their story.

In a powerful speech, Keira challenged the sports media industry to do more to leverage its platforms to promote inclusion in sports and society.

“We need more sports media covering Special Olympics events and telling our stories. There are over two hundred million people with IDD around the world. The goal is to reach every one of them and their families, to give them the gift of sport and you can help us.”

“On behalf of the four million Special Olympics athletes, I want to tell you that every athlete is ready to tell their story, to show the world what they can offer and to celebrate our talents and abilities. Have you ever thought about hiring someone with IDD? If not, then why not?”

“My story is just one example of what can happen when we choose inclusion. When we choose to listen to people with IDD, and when we tell their stories to the rest of the world, we are given the opportunity to be positive role models. Remember, I am just one of four million athletes in Special Olympics Now is the time for you to choose inclusion.”


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