GYMNAST Joshua Gray has returned to Australia with a swag of gold medals he won at the 2011 World Summer Special Olympics in Athens last week.
The 21-year-old won a staggering six gold, and one bronze, helping Australia to reach fifth position on the medal tally behind China, Russia, host nation Greece and the USA. The Israeli team returned home with 51 medals, including 17 gold.
Gray blitzed the field in the artistic gymnastics competition, winning gold in the horizontal bar, pommel horse, floor exercise, rings parallel bars and bronze in the vaulting. His dominance saw him win the all-round gold – for the competitor with the most points across all disciplines – with 112.404 points.
Gray was selected for his first Special Olympic Games after winning four gold medals at the national Special Olympics competition last year. With 7500 athletes from 22 countries vying for honors in Greece, Gray was again among the best-performing athletes, wearing the green and gold with pride.
The games’ five-hour long opening ceremony – held at the historic Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, the site of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 – featured pop/soul legend Stevie Wonder. The event came to a close on Monday with a spectacular ceremony, also at the Panathenaic Stadium, where the Special Olympics flag was handed over to the organising committee of the 2014 World Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. Asian music super-group the Wonder Girls performed.
Gray lives with his grandparents Robert and Agnes Forrai, who travelled to Athens with their grandson for the event.
“If ever I want to remember something pleasant in my life, I will remember Joshua doing his exercise on the rings,” Robert Forrai said of Gray’s near-perfect performance.
“He was brilliant. There was a Chinese fellow who was fantastic and Joshua beat him and that was probably the proudest moment of my life,” the delighted grandfather beamed. Forrai cited Gray’s gruelling five-day-a-week training regime as the reason for his success, but admitted that six gold medals exceeded everyone’s expectations.
“There was a room where they gave out the medals and Joshua kept coming back, because he kept coming first. He has outdone himself.”
Gray got off to a slow start with a modest 17.25 on his first apparatus, the floor, before shifting gears and blowing away all comers. Two of his six gold medals came with scores of more than 19 from a possible 20 points.