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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 05, 2015 | North America: Maryland

Treat people with special needs like other people-we aren't different

By Chloe Thomas

Let's try to stop the r word cause it's gross. We don't need that word in our life. People with special needs are not any different from normal people, so give them respect.View Story Let's try to stop the r word cause it's gross. We don't need that word in our life. People with special needs are not any different from normal people, so give them respect.

About Chloe Thomas :I'm from Rockville Maryland and I have been with the special Olympics for 8 years I love it
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March 05, 2015 | North America: North Carolina

Being autistic

By Ashley White

I am Ashley and I have high functioning autism. I was diagnosed with autism at the age of 5. I shared my story about it on ESPN's E:60 "Perfect Victims" episode.View Story I am Ashley and I have high functioning autism. I was diagnosed with autism at the age of 5. I shared my story about it on ESPN's E:60 "Perfect Victims" episode. Numerous times I've been called the R-word by people because of my disability. It had hurt my feelings and self-esteem. I thought if I didn't have autism, I would be perfectly normal. But at the end of the day, what is a normal person when others have flaws, too? I work hard to the point I want to be the best person I can be. Whenever I hear someone say the R-word, it's offensive. People have used it as a funny/joking matter, but I find it disturbing and derogatory. I pledge to spread the end of the R-word.

About Ashley White:
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March 05, 2015 | North America: New York

I Would Like to Go to Brockport NY Here in Rochester

By GERI RICE

I would like to go to Brockport for swimming and then sometime to the World Games. I am working really hard and no one is giving me the credit to be able to do this. Also, OK, and I would like to get to the national Games. I am a strong swimmer and I have some great trainers that are working with me in the gym.View Story I would like to go to Brockport for swimming and then sometime to the World Games. I am working really hard and no one is giving me the credit to be able to do this. Also, OK, and I would like to get to the national Games. I am a strong swimmer and I have some great trainers that are working with me in the gym.

About GERI RICE:I am a strong athlete and I know if I put my mind to it, I can do anything I want in sports.
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March 05, 2015 | North America: Utah

I am a Special Olympics athlete

By Amber Gertsch

I am a Special Olympics athlet so this hits home to me. Growing up, I was made fun of all the time... I had this word directed towards me many time. I have been competing in Special Olympics for just a little over 16 years.View Story I am a Special Olympics athlet so this hits home to me. Growing up, I was made fun of all the time... I had this word directed towards me many time. I have been competing in Special Olympics for just a little over 16 years.

About Amber Gertsch :
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March 03, 2015 | North America: South Dakota

My story with the R-Word

By Nick

It was last year when I was first informed of what the R-Word actually meant and I felt bad that I had ever used it so after that I made a conscious effort to never use that horrible word ever again.View Story It was last year when I was first informed of what the R-Word actually meant and I felt bad that I had ever used it so after that I made a conscious effort to never use that horrible word ever again.

About Nick:I am currently and athlete recovering from an injury. I dislocated my kneecap at basketball practice and have had rehab and such for about a month.
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March 03, 2015 | Latin America: Peru

Feeling Respected for the First Time

By Branko Stojakovic Astorne

Branko Stojakovic Astorne (left) with Dr. Gonzalo Larrabure

Branko Stojakovic Astorne penned a blog about his experience speaking to a post-graduate class at the Universidad Científica del Sur in Peru. His powerful firsthand account demonstrates one way Special Olympics athletes can change attitudes and perceptions.View Story Branko Stojakovic Astorne penned a blog about his experience speaking to a post-graduate class at the Universidad Científica del Sur in Peru. His powerful firsthand account demonstrates one way Special Olympics athletes can change attitudes and perceptions by working directly with health care providers.

About Branko Stojakovic Astorne:I am 38 years old, and I have had intellectual disabilities since I was born, but my family has supported me all my life. I feel fine with who I am, and I’ve never felt anything other than that. I like challenges and being able to help others. I am part of The Association of Young Leaders with Intellectual Disabilities, where we fight for the rights of people with disabilities. Also, I’m a proud member of the Special Olympics Global Athlete Health Advisory Committee.
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March 02, 2015 | North America: Colorado

Down syndrome

By Tiara West

I was born with Down syndrome and I have been in basketball for 10 years and no one said a bad word to me before. I don't like people being mean to me . I don't like that ! 😰View Story I was born with Down syndrome and I have been in basketball for 10 years and no one said a bad word to me before. I don't like people being mean to me . I don't like that ! 😰

About Tiara West:I am Tiara West to hanging out with my friends. and I also like music and helping other people. I like to color sometimes and playing card games. I like to play the Wii at home .
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March 02, 2015 | North America: Florida

I pledge to end the r word and change it to respect

By Rachel caylor rachel

I am Rachel I am 27 yrs old and I have a disability and I know I am just as Normal as anyone else on this earth the Lord made us for a reason and I have been made fun of picked on my whole life but I know that I am normal.View Story I am Rachel I am 27 yrs old and I have a disability and I know I am just as Normal as anyone else on this earth the Lord made us for a reason and I have been made fun of picked on my whole life but I know that I am normal and I have been in special olympics for 18 yrs and I love special olympics I play bowling and volleyball and I am a athlete leader I can't stand the r word it's not a good word it's very disgraceful for someone to call anyone that I pledge to end the word and it to be too ken out and changed to RESPECT it is very hurtful I don't like to be called that. Rachel caylor special olympics escambia county

About Rachel caylor rachel :Hi my name is Rachel caylor. I'm 27 yrs old I have been in special olympics escambia county for 18 yrs and I do bowling and volleyball I am a athlete leader.
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February 23, 2015 | North America: Kentucky

Kentucky Wesleyan College #NoRWord

By Mackenzie Weedman

This year Kentucky Wesleyan College's KEA-SP organization has gathered individuals from local disabilities services to represent students and adults with disabilities and to speak about their experience with the R word.View Story This year Kentucky Wesleyan College's KEA-SP organization has gathered individuals from local disabilities services to represent students and adults with disabilities and to speak about their experience with the R word. We are going to share information about the R word campaign at one of our KWC basketball games and have others pledge against saying the R word. This experience will be one of the biggest R word campaign exposures in Owensboro, KY.

About Mackenzie Weedman:I am a junior, softball player at Kentucky Wesleyan College in Owensboro, KY. I am the president of KWC's education program called KEA-SP. I am also employeed at Puzzle PIeces.
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February 19, 2015 | North America: North Carolina

Why do people call me the R-word and put it in their hearts and minds too?!!

By Bryan The Game Rogers #8 Special Olympics Volleyball Legend

Bryan "Intimidator Jr. Rogers with Miss Sprint Cup at Martinsville Speedway in 10-26-2014

I was Born on 9-20-1979 and I was about to die that day but god send his angels to give me a second chance to live and love everybody and most of all loving him too ALWAYS!View Story I was Born on 9-20-1979 and I was about to die that day but god send his angels to give me a second chance to live and love everybody and most of all loving him too ALWAYS! But the doctors classed me as a mentally slow learner, like they use the word: RETARDED! BUT(CRYING JUST A LITTLE) But it hard in my life and everybody feels the same way but some making and treating me funny cause that r-word is too much and makes me feeling like I wanted to die and go home with my lord jesus christ my savior and lord and most of all my beloved father in my whole life always Cause Now I'm a born again Christian since 2005 and forever cause I love my lord jesus christ Always! But I'm a Racing Fan of #88 Dale Jr. and #4 Kevin Harvick both of them and many more drivers of all cause I go to martinsville speedway in Martinsville Virginia since 2004,2008,2009,2012,2x: 2013, 2x: 2014 and both 2015 too Always But I was in high school since 1996-2000 and got a high school diploma and I was in SONC in 94, 96-99 end 00

About Bryan The Game Rogers #8 Special Olympics Volleyball Legend:I did Special Olympics Volleyball since 1994,1996,1997,1998,(1999?) and graduated with a High school diploma like all my friends do always! And I'm a #88 Dale Jr. Fan & #4 Kevin Harvick Fan too always
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Special Olympics Blog

Sport and Tech Team Up for Good

Now, thanks to Microsoft, athletes, coaches and families will have rapid access to useful information about their scores, times, personal bests, fitness and health. Special Olympics can use this capability to dramatically improve the lives of people in our Movement.read more »

Posted on 2014-10-27 by Janet

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