Johnny Robinson is unlikely to forget his first flight out of the country.
The Special Olympics Florida athlete from Pinellas County was one of only five competitors from the United States to attend and compete in the Special Olympics Malta Invitational Games, earlier this month. Johnny, 33, competed in the 200-meter run and the long jump, bringing home bronze medals in each event.
But the competition was only part of what made the Malta Invitational so memorable. Special Olympics Florida Regional Director Damien McNeil, who traveled with Johnny, said meeting athletes from around the world had a lasting impact on everyone in the Florida delegation.
“Johnny was interviewed several times over the week,” Damien said. “That helped him gain confidence both on and off the track. He has a natural warmth that impressed everyone we met.”
Johnny even picked up a nickname in Malta, an island country in the Mediterranean Sea. “He was affectionately known as ‘Johnny Worldwide’ throughout the week,” Damien said.
The Malta Invitational Games featured three days of competition and a spectacular opening ceremony. It attracted more than 450 athletes from Europe and beyond. Johnny competed on two days and used his off day to explore Valleta, Malta’s capital.
Damien said the trip perfectly embodied what Special Olympics Florida is all about. “We’re able to give athletes these incredible life experiences,” he said. “I couldn’t imagine a better mission.”