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Our Athletes

Athletes are the heart of Special Olympics. Our athletes are children and adults with intellectual disabilities from all around the world. They are finding success, joy and friendship as part of our global community. They're also having lots of fun! 

Members of the female football team from SO Bahamas rush in for hugs after a victory

Be a Fan of Joy. Trenice Bell gives a victory hug to Shaniqua Newbold as more teammates rush in to celebrate. The moment came after a Team Bahamas win at the Special Olympics Jamaica Football Invitational Competition.

Who Are Our Athletes?

Everybody is different. Special Olympics is for people who are different because they learn new skills slowly. They may not understand ideas that other people learn easily. They are different in other ways as well. They have an intellectual disability, or ID.

Intellectual disabilities happen in all cultures, races and countries. The goal of Special Olympics is to reach out to the 200 million people in the world with ID.

Our more than 4.4 million Special Olympics athletes – ages 8 years old and up -- come from more than 170 countries. We also have a Young Athletes program for children ages 2 to 7.

At any age and in every country, our athletes are learning new skills, making new friends and gaining in fitness and confidence.


About Intellectual Disability

Special Olympics is a global movement of people who want to improve the lives of people with intellectual disabilities. But what are intellectual disabilities? Learn More

Everyday, Everywhere

Special Olympics trainings and competitions happen 365 days a year in more than 170 countries.

We offer 32 Olympic-style summer and winter sports. So whatever your age or skill level, Special Olympics has something for you. Many athletes start in one sport, then go on to try others.

Through sports, our athletes are seeing themselves for their abilities, not disabilities. Their world is opened with acceptance and understanding.They become confident and empowered by their accomplishments. They are also making new friends, as part of the most inclusive community on the planet -- a global community that is growing every day.

Abdel-Raman Hassan is an athlete whose life changed after he joined Special Olympics. He's a swimmer with ID from Saudi Arabia. He is also partially paralyzed. Yet he doesn't let anything -- or anyone -- put limits on his abilities.  

His talent for swimming did not come naturally or easily. Abdel-Raman's father says it took him a month to hold his breath underwater for three seconds. It took him a year to swim a distance of one meter. He did not give up. Abdel-Raman went on to win gold medals in 25- and 50-meter races at World Summer Games. He is a champion.


Not Alone

What is it like having ID? David Egan of Virginia says it can be difficult, but that joining Special Olympics helped him a lot. “It was hard for me to accept the fact that I have Down syndrome. But it became easier when I joined Special Olympics and I discovered that I was not alone.”

Over the years, David has taken part in soccer (football), basketball, ice skating, softball and swimming. He says the confidence he built through Special Olympics has helped him find and keep a job for the last 15 years.

From Athletes to Leaders

Through sports training and competitions, Special Olympics helps people with ID find joy, acceptance and success. As their lives open up, athletes gain the confidence that comes with achievement. They feel empowered. They are ready to take on new challenges to make use of their new abilities.

They can become mentors for other athletes. They can train to become coaches and officials. They can also move toward a more public role as a speaker or spokesperson. They can speak to audiences and journalists about the positive changes that Special Olympics helped bring about in their lives. (Read more about our International Global Messengers from around the world here.)

At Special Olympics, our athletes are empowered to share their many gifts and talents with society. Yet, it's more than that. Our athletes also become empowered to be leaders in society -- and teach us all about acceptance and understanding. (Learn more about Special Olympics Athlete Leadership programs here.)

Stories Written by Special Olympics Athletes


March 29, 2015 | North America: Texas

people saying the rword

By bridgette

Well my story begins when i was a freshman in high school and all the time i would hear people say the r-word and it would drive me crazy so i decided to join meet in the middle to stop the r-word cause everyone needs respectView Story Well my story begins when i was a freshman in high school and all the time i would hear people say the r-word and it would drive me crazy so i decided to join meet in the middle to stop the r-word cause everyone needs respect

About bridgette:hi i am Bridgette Thomas and i am a Meet in the Middle Member and a Special Olympics athlete for Samuel Clemens High School in Schertz Texas
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March 29, 2015 | North America: Washington

Why I Love Special Olympics

By Michelle Jorgensen

I've been an athlete with Special Olympics for 35 yrs, first track, which I went to World Games for in 1991, skiing, then my fabulous ski coach convinced me to leave track for cycling and I just LOVE it! I've made a ton of friends over the years-Special Olympics is the best thing on Earth!View Story I've been an athlete with Special Olympics for 35 yrs, first track, which I went to World Games for in 1991, skiing, then my fabulous ski coach convinced me to leave track for cycling and I just LOVE it! I've made a ton of friends over the years-Special Olympics is the best thing on Earth!

About Michelle Jorgensen :
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March 29, 2015 | North America: New York

Getting Ready For Regional Games Here in Rochester

By GERIRICE

I would like to go to Summer State Games, and next year I want to go to World Games. I have never been there at all. Now also, OK, and this is something I really want there right now. By the way, this is important too for my coaches.View Story I would like to go to Summer State Games, and next year I want to go to World Games. I have never been there at all. Now also, OK, and this is something I really want there right now. By the way, this is important too for my coaches.

About GERIRICE:I am a special athlete here in Rochester and I wan tto make it to all of the gmaes here. And that is what I am going to towards.
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March 29, 2015 | North America: South Carolina

Derrick

By derrick

My name is Derrick Fahnestock. I am 33 years old. I live in North Myrtle Beach, SC. I am here to end the r word.View Story My name is Derrick Fahnestock. I am 33 years old. I live in North Myrtle Beach, SC. I am here to end the r word.

About derrick:
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March 29, 2015 | North America: Northern California

A team that shows the having the R-word out of picture really helps the athletes

By erika bruhns

Team Oakland swimming is one place where athletes can really fee like they belong because the coaches’ turn over is really low and we have some really good coaches that really care and really know what they are doing.View Story Team Oakland swimming is one place where athletes can really fee like they belong because the coaches’ turn over is really low and we have some really good coaches that really care and really know what they are doing. The two head coaches have been there for a long time and they really know how to train new coaches. I think having a no r-word at all at this team really helps the athletes grow and the coaches bring out the best in each swimmer. Having the coaches let me take my time really helps me and I can be myself. Team Oakland is a role model of how not having the r word present really helps the athletes out.

About erika bruhns:I have being part of team Oakland swimming for 4 years now. I been also do basketball , soccer , and softball too. I Fell like team Oakland swimming should be known because it a good role model when it comes to stopping the r word.
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March 29, 2015 | North America: Southern California

I Have Been A Victim Of This ''word." Have You ?

By Chey

It's hurtful and makes me feel bad. It's disrespectful and can make people do harm. People can be seriously hurt by this word. I feel this campaign has a strong meaning to it. So i want to be a part of this by helping. Spread the word to end the word. X out the old R_word and put the NEW and improved one in: Respect.View Story It's hurtful and makes me feel bad. It's disrespectful and can make people do harm. People can be seriously hurt by this word. I feel this campaign has a strong meaning to it. So i want to be a part of this by helping. Spread the word to end the word. X out the old R_word and put the NEW and improved one in: Respect.

About Chey:I love sports, sometimes people make fun of me because that's what I'm passionate about. I love hanging with friends and skateboarding.But anyways i want to help by Spreading The Word To End The word!
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March 29, 2015 | North America: Illinois

Different

By Charles m Adams

My name is Charles. From an early age, I knew I was different. I couldn't keep up in high school. I was always pushed in school but it wasn't until I came to a friend that Ii found out about the Chicago Special Olympics organization and the rest as they say is history.I pledge never to use "Thatword" as long as I live.View Story My name is Charles. From an early age, I knew I was different. I couldn't keep up in high school. I was always pushed in school but it wasn't until I came to a friend that Ii found out about the Chicago Special Olympics organization and the rest as they say is history.I pledge never to use "Thatword" as long as I live.

About Charles m Adams :I am an 36 yo athlete. Of shabbona park so i know 1st hand how degrading that word is i have been called that many times and i know alot of guys&gals who don't fit that word i will pledge not to use r
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March 29, 2015 | North America: Texas

r-word is bad

By bridgette

i get angry when i hear someone say the r-word retard and its just so annoying that i started to join my meet in the middle group and i its amazing that i was able to help out with the spread r-word campaign for my schoolView Story i get angry when i hear someone say the r-word retard and its just so annoying that i started to join my meet in the middle group and i its amazing that i was able to help out with the spread r-word campaign for my school

About bridgette:hi i am Bridgette Thomas and i am a special olympics athlete for scucisd which stands for schertz ciblo universal city independent school district Ive been a athlete for schertz for 9 years
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March 19, 2015 | North America: New York

Just BE YOURSELF!!!

By lillian chaparro

I admired Special Olympics because the athletes learn how to be themselves and have fun with other people around them .I may have autism and I am not ashamed to admit it!View Story I admired Special Olympics because the athletes learn how to be themselves and have fun with other people around them. I may have autism and I am not ashamed to admit it! People may think I'm crazy and not be equal towards them in public but that doesn't mean I'm giving up my freedom or the right to not be myself and not be happy with how to live my life.I love to learn to be who I AM and I'm proud of it!!!! Just be yourself you're lovable!!!!

About lillian chaparro:I'm a lovable person and a fan of Special Olympics.
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March 19, 2015 | North America: Oklahoma

My Special Olympics Dolphins Years of Swimming

By Mary carolyin. Th Henson.

Hi I'm Mary was rased in good oldye? Oklahoma I've swam since was 16/17 My firsts event train was at the downtown y then worked onto the Ione YWCA for several yrs then is on now boards w the Emound Oklahoma stingrays teams speciall olympics. Swimming teams /Speciall olympics has taught me 5 thingsView Story Hi I'm Mary. I was raised in good old Oklahoma. I've been swimming since I was 16 or 17. My first event training was at the downtown YMCA, then worked out at the Ione YWCA for several years, then I'm now onboard with the Emound Oklahoma Stingrays Special Olympics team. Swimming on teams with Special Olympics has taught me five things: persevereance is one; two is, to succeed at almost anything means risks, lifestyles taught in the field of the swim training sessions. Third, work adhere ANC e patience I'd best apply that to my previous job for Arby's Inc. Then put to mind anything compasete. That is why I, Mary Carolyin Henson need to be awarded the Spirit award for 2015 this yr! Regards from athlete Mary c Henson.

About Mary carolyin. Th Henson.:Iff I'm Mary awarded the spirit awards for love gentleness patience kindness understanding persvance skills persuasion goals contribute I'd contribute to it ? Even my job strive self conscience knowledge e wisdom I'd want to simply my words tell other athletes thanks e they? Toos can learns from w I'd several yrs back to get accomplishs to where's I'm is now advance ands w I'd? Show to others thru my team we truly all winners mh.
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Special Olympics Blog

Jean Vanier, a prophet of humility and simplicity, wins!

Today, the Templeton Foundation gave its most prestigious award to my hero, Jean Vanier.  For Linda and our children and me, he has also been our retreat leader, our teacher of humility, our guide. 

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Posted on 2015-03-11 by Tim

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