Yang Yang (A) Named Special Olympics Global Ambassador

Special Olympics announced today that champion speedskater Yang Yang (A) of China, a member of the International Olympic Committee and China’s first winter sports Olympic gold medalist, now joins the Special Olympics family as the movement’s latest addition to the Global Ambassadors. Yang Yang will support Special Olympics’ efforts in promoting acceptance, inclusion, respect, and human dignity for people with intellectual disabilities.

The Newest Global Ambassador

Yang Yang and her Champion Foundation will develop a train-the-trainer course for skating sports to help Special Olympics improve its winter sports excellence in East Asia, and hope this course can be expanded for the benefit of Special Olympics athletes worldwide.

Shanghai, China –The celebration took place in Shanghai on September 28 to mark the fourth annual global Eunice Kennedy Shriver (EKS) Day in honor of the spirit and legacy of Special Olympics’ late founder. “I feel extremely honored to join as a Global Ambassador for Special Olympics, especially on such an occasion,” said Yang Yang. “Mrs. Eunice Shriver had devoted her lifelong efforts to fight against the prejudice towards people with intellectual disabilities. From her, we all find that, with fervidity, fortitude and faith, changes will happen. I am looking forward to calling on more people to join the movement to realize the gifts and talents of those intellectually disabled.” 

Yang Yang joins a prestigious list of Global Ambassadors including Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene of Monaco, Nadia Comaneci, Scott Hamilton, Padraig Harrington, Yuna Kim, Yang Lan, Yao Ming, Ricardo Montaner, Dikembe Mutombo, Apolo Anton Ohno, Michael Phelps, Vanessa Williams and Zhang Ziyi. Special Olympics International board members who have expressed their warmest welcome in a video include: Olympics Gymnastics Gold Medalists Mr. Bart Conner and Ms. Nadia Comaneci and Figure Skating Champion and U.S. Public Diplomacy Envoy Ms. Michelle Kwan. 

Special Olympics Global Ambassador, Olympics Speed Skating Gold Medalist Mr. Apolo Ohno also sent out his greetings to Yang Yang from a video message. 


Inspiring Millions of Athletes

Timothy Shriver, Chairman and CEO of Special Olympics International, extended his congratulations, “Yang Yang is China’s most decorated athlete, earning 59 world championship titles in her career. In addition to winning in the world of sports and competitions, we also see Yang Yang’s commitment and dedication to social work. We are very proud to have Yang Yang as the latest addition to our Special Olympics family. She will inspire millions of athletes around the world to strive to achieve their personal best.” 

Attendees at the press conference also included Mary Gu, Regional President & Managing Director of Special Olympics East Asia and Mr. Jin Fang, Executive Chairman of Special Olympics Shanghai. 

“Yang Yang will play a vital role in advocating for the inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities.” said Mary Gu, “In addition, we hope she will lead our efforts in promoting winter sports in this region and inspire more female Special Olympics athletes to play an active role in their communities.” 

Statistics shows that the worldwide ratio of males to females with intellectual disabilities is 55% to 45%; while female Special Olympics athletes account for 38.5%, according to the 2012 U.S. Census Report. 

The press conference was held at Feiyang Ice Sports Center, established by Yang Yang in 2012, which is one of the few premium ice arenas in southern China. The center, Yang Yang said, will be the training ground for Special Olympics winter sports coaches. A skating training program is underway which aims to expand winter sports across the region through Yang Yang and her team’s technical expertise. In celebration of the partnership and as a demonstration of her commitments of inclusion for all, Yang Yang also invited 12 Chinese National Speed Skating Team athletes to join a Special Olympics unified skating relay with Special Olympics athletes at Feiyang Ice Sports Center.

About Special Olympics

Special Olympics is an international organization that that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports everyday around the world. Through work in sports, health, education and community building, Special Olympics is addressing inactivity, injustice, intolerance and social isolation by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities which leads to a more welcoming and inclusive society. Healthy Athletes is the primary health-related program for Special Olympics, providing free health screenings to athletes with intellectual disabilities in seven different areas -- vision, hearing, oral health, healthy lifestyles, general fitness, podiatry, and sports physicals. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown from a few hundred athletes to more than 4.2 million athletes in 170 countries. With the support of more than one million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics is able to deliver 32 Olympic-type sports and more than 70,000 competitions throughout the year. Visit Special Olympics at www.specialolympics.org. Engage with us on: Twitter @specialolympics; fb.com/specialolympics; youtube.com/specialolympicshq, and specialolympicsblog.wordpress.com.

About Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day

Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day is an annual celebration of her life and a global call challenging everyone to “Play Unified to Live Unified” because she taught us that on the playing field, we forget about our differences and recognize our mutual humanity. On EKS Day, we invite you to join us in playing unified and teaching the world to live unified. As founder and honorary chairperson of Special Olympics and executive vice president of the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation, Eunice Kennedy Shriver was a leader in the worldwide struggle to improve and enhance the lives of individuals with intellectual disabilities for more than five decades. Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s actions helped open the minds of all people to the gifts and talents of individuals with intellectual disabilities. She believed in their possibilities, which fuel hope in all of us to make a difference. Eunice Kennedy Shriver demonstrated an unrelenting indomitable spirit in action that one person could make a difference and change the world. Her lasting legacy must be our continued commitment to improve and transform the lives of the 200 million people worldwide with intellectual disabilities that still live with diminished opportunities and social disrespect, and are often neglected and hidden away. Visit www.eksday.org and www.eunicekennedyshirver.org to learn more.