“I want a society where people accept me for who I am, where I get an equal chance to get a job and make lots of friends,” said Sitthiphon Phisajarn.
The 2023 Special Olympics World Games in Berlin welcomed over 6,500 athletes from over 170 countries competing in 26 sports. Amid the competition, Thailand emerged as a formidable contender, clinching an impressive tally of medals:. But within this sea of achievements, is a story of passion and drive. Meet 20-year-old Sitthiphon Phisajarn and his journey to the Special Olympics World Games 2023.
Sitthiphon and his brother Sitthikon, are a pair of identical twins from Special Olympics Thailand. He and his brother, Sitthikon both competed in athletics at the Special Olympics World Games held in Berlin in June 2023. Although the Phisajarn twins competed against each other in the long jump, they tackled different distances of 100m and 200m in their second event.
Sitthiphon was the first athlete in his delegation to win a gold medal for his country at the World Games 2023. His story is about dreaming big and chasing those dreams with perseverance, passion, and determination.
This also marked the first time in Special Olympics Thailand’s 36-year history of participation that not one but two pairs of twins – including the Phisajarn twins- were fielded for competition!
Laying the Foundation: Overcoming Early Hardships
Making history, however, started off humbly.
Sitthiphon hails from a family of farmers. As the twins had intellectual disabilities, they struggled with the standard syllabus taught in schools which made, their parents sad. Thankfully for the Phisajarn family, the twins came to the attention of the Special School in Nan which annually visits rural primary schools to check if there are students who might require more attention for their learning needs. This was what landed them at Nan Special School as members of SO Thailand.
Identical twins, Identical choices?
The two brothers have shared a unique connection for much of their lives – they have similar preferences and can practically read each other’s minds. For instance, when Nan Special School introduced them to both Athletics and Football, both young men naturally gravitated towards athletics. This not only deepened their bond but also resulted in the twins forging new friendships. As their sights shifted to the Berlin World Games, a shared worry emerged that only one twin would qualify, leaving the other one behind. But it seemed fate had a shared journey in mind, with both the Phisajarn twins successfully qualifying for the Berlin World Games 2023.
A Triumph to Remember
The Berlin World Games will always be a precious memory for Sitthiphon, as he secured the first gold medal for Thailand at the competition in the men’s 200-meter race. With every stride, he cast aside doubts, reaching the finish line with arms wide and a heart full of victory. His gold medal wasn’t just a piece of metal; it was a symbol of his unyielding spirit, a reward symbolizing years of hard work and belief in himself. Sitthikon also made the country proud by securing gold medals in the 100-meter race and long jump.
Beyond the Medal: Unity in Diversity
There is a message that goes beyond just sports or medals as embodied by the twins’ experience at the Games. The World Games demonstrates in a concrete way, that irrespective of abilities, people can come together to break down barriers and stereotypes to realize their dreams, serving as beacons of hope for everyone.