Lee Penfold's blog: Special Olympics GB athletes set off to Athens
Well, the waiting is over and Leicestershire’s ‘Magnificent 7’ Special Olympics GB athletes are off to World Summer Games in Athens on Sunday.
I’m really looking forward to settling into our new environment and training base in Skiathos and the opening ceremony before the real action begins on court.
I’ll be able to draw on all my experiences from the previous Games in Shanghai in 2008 and the Nationals in Leicester in 2009 to help some of my colleagues who are experiencing the World Summer Games for the very first time.
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It’s been a great start to June, and the weather’s been uplifting as the sun has shone on Leicestershire.
I also received an unexpected and surprise official invitation for a guided tour of 10 Downing Street with other members of the Team GB squad and to meet the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and officials including Minister for Sport and the Olympics, Hugh Robertson MP.
The Prime Minister took time out from his busy schedule to wish us all the best for our mission in Athens and continue our outstanding record of achievement as being exemplary sporting ambassadors for the country, both on and off the sports field of play.
It is fair to say that sportsmanship and fair play are the very special pillars of the Special Olympics movement.
After all, sport is all about team spirit, fair play, responsibility and performance whatever the result.
I was also invited to the Talksport studios with British gymnastic star Beth Tweddle and former GB athletics runner Darren Campbell.
I met Mark Saggers and former footballer Micky Quinn. It was my first ever interview on Talksport, which was a great experience.
All the staff were very supportive throughout and wished us all the best for Athens.
In the evening I went to the Greek Embassy in London and delivered a speech to 250 guests.
We also received a cheque for £25,000 from one of Special Olympics biggest supporters, the Lions International Clubs.
Back home in Leicester I was also involved in the annual Special Olympics club fundraising activities at Fosse Park Shopping Centre.
Roger Sharpe, the coach, Manny Singh, Tom Taylor, Nina Lees and I spent seven hours shaking a tin and talking to shoppers who were very generous with their donations.
Every penny helps towards providing basketball opportunities for people with learning disabilities.
I recently took part in a final warm up match against Rutland, and we managed to win a close encounter 16-10.
The game was tied at 10 -10 with 20 minutes to go but we dug deep and came out on top.
The match provided the ideal preparation and test for the challenge ahead. I was also pretty pleased with my contribution as well.
As the rugby season came to a close recently at Twickenham, I’ll finish with a few words about one of my favourite sports teams, Leicester Tigers.
Like all Leicestershire sports fans, I was one of the thousands cheering on the Tigers in their nerve-jangling Aviva Premiership finale.
Sadly on this occasion, Saracens managed to grind out a titanic win and collect their first major trophy since winning the Tetley Bitter Cup May 1998.
In all sports there is such a fine line between winning and losing. As proven in the past, the Tigers are at their most dangerous when they have suffered a setback and, like all true champions, I know they will come roaring back next season. Thanks for all the many great memories of the past season.
I can’t believe the moment has finally arrived. All the early morning gym training sessions, club training and preparation and support from family, friends and coaching staff has put us in the best possible shape for the basketball event and challenge ahead.
Also, a big thank-you to the staff at RR Donnelly Global Document Solutions, Leicester, and Barclays Bank whose fundraising efforts ensured I was able to cover the costs of the trip to World Games.
Athens here we come! Fingers crossed we all come back with golden memories and maybe a gold medal or two as well.
That would be nice way to commemorate another memorable Special Olympics experience.
If you want to send us a good luck message you can Tweet us at @SOGreatBritain or @superstarlee
Yours in sport
Read Lee's earlier blogs and follow his progress (just click on the headline to read the full write-up)