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Royal Fan

The joy of Special Olympics attracts fans from all walks of life, including some household names.  World class athletes like Michael Phelps and Nadia Comaneci and entertainers like Vanessa Williams and Joe Jonas support the Special Olympics vision that sports can pave the way for acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities.  We also have a few royal fans.

Charlene Wittstock presented the awards for the ‘Disability category.’ Special Olympics athlete Craig Groenewald’s winning time was 21:06. Photo courtesy of Special Olympics South Africa

The future Princess of Monaco, Charlene Wittstock, is a loyal fan.  A former Olympic swimmer, Charlene has held a number of swimming titles and records in South Africa during her professional career.   She held a recent fundraising breakfast which raised funds to support Special Olympics, money that will help reach out to even more people with intellectual disabilities who want to participate. As an accomplished athlete herself, Charlene Wittstock understands the power of sports and is an avid supporter of Special Olympics. 

But the future Princess also takes a hands-on approach to show her support.  She recently competed for the first time in the Midmar Mile, the biggest timed open water swimming event in the world.  Rather than swimming it competitively, Charlene decided to swim alongside Special Olympics athletes.  First out of the water was Special Olympics South Africa athlete Craig Groenewald, closely followed by athletes without disabilities. Charlene Wittstock presented the awards to the winners and is looking forward to making this swim an annual event on her calendar.  Looking ahead, Special Olympics plans to widen the field of competition beyond the 43 athletes who took part in this year’s event.

Future princess of Monaco isn’t the only "royal" fan of Special Olympics. Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Amina of Morocco has been a staunch supporter for many years. She helped establish Special Olympics in Morocco back in 1995 and has been an enthusiastic force for the movement ever since. A sportswoman herself, Princess Lalla Amina is chairwoman of the Royal Moroccan Equestrian Federation and is also a member of the Special Olympics International Board of Directors.  She has been a true champion for people with intellectual disabilities in Morocco, providing leadership aimed at building more acceptance and inclusion for the athletes of Special Olympics.  Her nephew, King Mohammed VI, has also been a Special Olympics supporter and served as host of the 2010 Global Congress in Marrakech.   Several members of the British Royal family, including the Queen and Prince Charles, have demonstrated their support for Special Olympics over the years. 

Enthusiasm for Special Olympics is contagious and we are grateful to have so many loyal fans.