HAMTRAMCK, Michigan, USA, 6 August 2022 – The Special Olympics Unified Cup Detroit 2022, presented by Toyota and modeled after the FIFA World Cup™, concluded a week-long international celebration of inclusion at Keyworth Stadium, Michigan, USA, awarding the championship trophy to the top male and female teams competing in the football (soccer) competition.
Special Olympics Jamaica defeated Special Olympics Paraguay in the Men’s Division 1 Championship match 2-0. The victory was made even sweeter by the fact that it happened on the 60th anniversary of Jamaican Independence. Unified partner Ontwain Mitchell pulled out the first goal early on, scoring 10 minutes into the first half. The second goal of the game came with just two minutes left on the clock, secured by Unified partner, Ellis Guscott. Special Olympics Jamaica consistently shined on both the defensive and offensive ends of the field, scoring 23 goals in total during the tournament. Jamaica was the only men’s team not to concede a single goal.
Special Olympics Guatemala beat out Special Olympics USA in the Women’s Division 1 Championship match, with a final score of 5-1. The lone goal scored by the Special Olympics USA team was made eight minutes into match play by Unified partner, Coree Bensch from Hanover Park, Illinois. From the start of the tournament, Special Olympics Guatemala has been the team to beat. Through group play and playoffs, they have maintained technical and tactile dominance, scoring 33 goals in total, shutting out each opponent.
The men’s and women’s Division One finals were streamed live from Keyworth Stadium—home of the Detroit City Football Club by ESPN, the Global Broadcast Partner of Special Olympics International and the Global Presenting Sponsor of Special Olympics Unified Sports®. ESPN3 broadcasted the matches to hundreds of millions of viewers across the globe. ESPN will also be producing an hour-long Unified Cup special that will air on Saturday, August 13th at 3 p.m. EST on ESPN2 titled Special Olympics Unified Cup Detroit 2022.
Twenty-two Special Olympics Unified teams—comprised of more than 300 footballers with and without intellectual disabilities (Unified partners)—represented by 25 countries, traveled to Detroit to compete in the world's most inclusive sports competition this year, hosted by Special Olympics Michigan (SOMI).
“All week I saw teams cheering each other on, picking each other up and helping each other out. These athletes and Unified partners have left an imprint on all of us. They have showcased the greatness and power of sport, but more importantly, their leadership has shown us no matter what differences may persist, joy and community will always overcome. I am proud of our partners and the entire city of Detroit for showcasing the power of inclusion and leaving a legacy no one will forget.”
Prior to the men’s and women's teams taking to the pitch, Special Olympics athletes and ambassadors participated in a Special Olympics Unified Celebrity Match. The star-studded roster featured Tim Shriver, Special Olympics Chairman, Tim Hileman, President & CEO of Special Olympics Michigan, Dylan Larkin, Captain of the Detroit Red Wings, Emma Broyles, Miss America 2022 and Special Olympics Champion Ambassador, Dale Moss, Special Olympics Global Ambassador, Former NFL Wide Receiver, Chicago Bears, Model, Actor & Media Personality, and more. A full roster can be viewed here.
Additionally, a number of additional Special Olympics athletes were honored for their performance during the Unified Cup:
The Golden Boot award is presented to the player scoring the most goals during the tournament. The Women’s winner of the Golden Boot award was given to Adriana Ramírez Monzónd from Special Olympics Guatemala, who made12 goals, and the Men’s winner of the Golden Boot was awarded to Special Olympics Jamaica Unified partner Dillion Richards with 7 goals.
The Most Unified Team award is given to the team that best exemplifies the principles of meaningful involvement and inclusion on and off the field of play. The Women’s Most Unified Team award goes to Special Olympics Costa Rica, and the Men’s Most Unified Team award goes to Special Olympics Singapore.
The Fair Play Team award is presented to the team that has demonstrated exemplary behavior, including playing by the rules and respecting teammates, opponents, match officials, and fans. The Women’s Fair Play Team award goes to Special Olympics Serendib (Sri Lanka), and the Men’s Fair Play Team award goes to Special Olympics Korea, both had no fouls or penalty cards throughout the tournament.
The Golden Glove award is given to the best goalkeeper of the Unified Cup. The Women’s Golden Glove award goes to Special Olympics USA’s Radoslava Papadopoulous, with 17 saves and only 4 goals conceded. The Men’s Golden Glove award goes to Special Olympics Jamaica’s Omarion Brown, with 17 saves and zero goals scored against him.
The Unified Cup drew approximately 10,000 spectators, 1,000 volunteers and 500 family members and dignitaries with the common mission of celebrating the joy of sport and the power of inclusion through camaraderie, competition and breaking down social barriers.
Special Olympics Unified Sports® brings together athletes with and without intellectual disabilities to play on the same team, demonstrating how playing and competing together breaks down barriers and ultimately creates communities of acceptance and inclusion. Globally, more than 885,000 Special Olympics athletes and Unified partners (athletes withoutintellectual disabilities) compete in football (soccer). The Special Olympics Unified Cup Detroit 2022 will be the second-ever tournament in this single-sport series, following the inaugural competition in Chicago in 2018.
To learn more about the Unified Cup, visit www.unifiedcup.org
A full list of match results can be found here.
Competition highlights can be viewed by clicking the links below:
About Special Olympics
Founded in 1968, Special Olympics is a global movement to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities. We foster acceptance of all people through the power of sport and programming in education, health, and leadership. With more than six million athletes and Unified Sports partners in over 190 countries and territories and more than one million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers more than 30 Olympic-type sports and over 100,000 games and competitions every year. Engage with us on: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedInand our blog on Medium. Learn more at www.SpecialOlympics.org.
About Special Olympics Michigan
Special Olympics Michigan Inc. (SOMI) provides year-round sports training and athletic competition to over 23,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities and Unified partners (athletes without intellectual disabilities). Athletes develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, and experience joy while participating in the sharing of gifts, skills, and friendship among their families, Special Olympics athletes, and the community. SOMI is a non-profit organization supported almost entirely by corporate and individual gifts and events. The generosity of Michigan organizations, individuals, and statewide businesses enable the program to continue.
About Special Olympics Unified Cup Detroit 2022
The Special Olympics Unified Cup Detroit 2022 is made possible thanks to support from sponsors Toyota, ESPN, Ally Financial, Gallagher, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network, The Coca-Cola Company, Jersey Mike’s Subs, The Real Estate One Charitable Foundation and Walmart. For more information, visit unifiedcup.org and stay up to date on our social media channels: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.