Special Olympics' New Global Ambassador Leads By Example

رمضان 23, 1432

His is a tale that appeals to many people -- the story of a physically awkward kid who struggled with learning and behavior problems; but overcame them all to become one of the greatest swimmers of all time. But for Special Olympics athletes, the Michael Phelps story has an added meaning: he's living proof that determination can lead to skill and that skill can lead to triumph.

Michael Phelps in a pool with Special Olympics Athletes Dong Fang and Fu Yin Ping

Michael Phelps in Shanghai, China with Special Olympics athletes Dong Fang and Fu Yin Ping, running a Special Olympics swimming clinic. Meet other Special Olympics Global Ambassadors.

Earlier this month, Special Olympics named the 14-time Olympic Gold Medalist a Global Ambassador and announced a new partnership with the Michael Phelps Foundation. The mutual goal is to bring health, wellness and expert instruction to our athletes, as well as potentially life-saving information on water safety. As Global Ambassador, Michael Phelps will boost Special Olympics' efforts to raise awareness and transform attitudes about people with intellectual disabilities.


Brighter Futures Through Sport

Of course, he's been working toward that goal for years. In 2007, he held a swimming clinic for Special Olympics athletes in China ahead of the 2007 World Summer Games. He jumped into the pool with the athletes and gave hands-on lessons, offering some of his favorite tips. In 2009, he took part in a swimming exhibition in Baltimore for Special Olympics athletes, swimming laps side-by-side with special guest Andy Miyares.  The experience was a dream come true for Andy, an accomplished athlete in his own right and the only swimmer with intellectual disabilities to ever be ranked  in top 10 by U.S. Master's Swimming. 

Now Michael Phelps is hoping to take this mission further. Phelps says he doesn't just want to improve the skills of Special Olympics athletes today, but improve their futures: "Together we can help grow the sport of swimming while also encouraging active and healthy lifestyles for people of all ages and abilities."

Inspiration to Reach for Their Dreams

Even before he became a Global Ambassador, Michael Phelps has been inspiring our athletes. Ask Special Olympics athlete Zachary Poston, whose dreams began in a pool just downstate from where Michael Phelps trained. Zachary has been with Special Olympics for four years and had long dreamed of winning gold at a World Games ... someday. With that goal in mind, Zachary -- who has autism -- has been stepping up his game.

After months of training and practice, Zachary won four gold medals at this year’s Maryland State Summer Games. By then he already knew he'd been picked as the only Maryland swimmer representing the U.S. at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens, Greece – also the site of the 2004 International Summer Olympics Games. And that's when his big moment came. That's when Zachary swam -- and won -- the 400-meter freestyle in the very same pool where Michael Phelps won his first Olympic gold medals. Zachary calls it, simply, the "greatest thing that ever happened to me."

"I know I can"

Watching it all was Zachary's Team USA coach, who knows first-hand how sport can bring out the best in athletes -- of all abilities. Phil Wetzler started out years ago as a coach at the Maryland Aquatic Center where Michael Phelps trained. For the last several years, he's been coaching Special Olympics athletes including at the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghai and, most recently, in Athens. He says coaching Special Olympics athletes is about skill, about determination, but it's also about heart. His favorite part of coaching is "getting these kids, some who don't even speak much, to say the words 'I know I can, I know I can.' Before you know it, they are cheering and shouting it" -- and achieving the goals they'd never thought they could reach.

Your Donation Matters

Special Olympics transforms athletes’ lives through the joy of sport. Help us make a difference.

DONATE TODAY»

Volunteer Near You

Volunteering with Special Olympics is fun and very rewarding, for both the athlete and the volunteer!

LEARN MORE»

Follow Us

ساعدنا في الوصول إلى بطل رياضي آخر

التبرع »

تعرف على الأحداث المحلية وتعلم المزيد حول فرص المتطوعين في أي من مكاتبنا البالغ عددها 220 من كل أنحاء العالم

العثور على موقع بالقرب منك »

Our Supporters

AVSC RecordThe most successful benefit recording in musical history.Learn More »


Our Supporters

Annenberg FoundationSupports our goals for coaches’ excellence.Learn More »


Our Supporters

Bank of America

Proud partner of Special Olympics.

Learn More »


Our Supporters

Coca-ColaSpecial Olympics Founding Partner.Learn More »


Our Supporters

ESPNGlobal Presenting Sponsor of Unified Sports®.Learn More »


Our Supporters

EssilorOfficial global supplier of ophthalmic lenses.Learn More »


Our Supporters

Health One GlobalGlobal health data technology partner.Learn More »


Our Supporters

AIPSGlobal Impact Partner for Special Olympics.Learn More »


Our Supporters

Lions ClubSupports access to quality eye care.Learn More »


Our Supporters

MattelSupports Special Olympics Youth Programs.Learn More »


Our Supporters

Procter & GambleCelebrating over 30 years of partnership with Special Olympics.Learn More »


Our Supporters

SafewayRaises funds and awareness for people with disabilities.Learn More »


Our Supporters

SàfiloSupplies optical frames and sunglasses.Learn More »


Our Supporters

UNICEFProvides greater inclusion of children with disabilities.Learn More »


Our Supporters

MTM RecognitionSupplier of awards and medals for our athletes.Learn More »


Our Supporters

Perfect Sense DigitalSpecial Olympics' leading digital partner.Learn More »


Our Supporters

Y&RPowering our global youth marketing campaign.Learn more »


Special Olympics Blog

Suneedhi: a Girl, a Clinic, a Dream

For a dental surgeon such as myself, screening was just the first step! i felt we needed to go beyond examinations to ensuring people with intellectual disability got any treatment that they needed. I felt I could help more. read more »

Posted on 2014-09-22 by Lynn

go to blog »


*

Special Olympics - Become a Fan