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From the Island of Oahu To the Mainland of Berlin, Germany, Special Olympics Hawaii Athlete Will Officiate Bocce at World Games

In just a few months, athletes, coaches, and delegations will converge on Berlin, Germany for the Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023 (June 17–25). Shavanna Mahoe will be there, but the Special Olympics Hawaii athlete won’t be competing, she’ll be officiating. Mahoe has the distinction of being Hawaii’s first and only Special Olympics athlete who serves as a certified bocce official.

“It means everything to me—and I’m excited,” Mahoe says. “I feel blessed to be involved in the World Games. I am grateful to have this opportunity of a lifetime.”

A Special Olympics athlete tosses a bocce ball on the court.
Mahoe is ready to turn her years of experience as a bocce athlete into a once-in-a-lifetime experience of officiating bocce competition at the Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023.

Mahoe won’t be going to Germany alone. She’ll travel with a chaperone like every other athlete, and that chaperone is Nip Ho, the senior vice president of programs for Special Olympics Hawaii. Ho’s been a long-time coach and official for bocce, a perfect fit for Mahoe.

“The nice thing about being here in Hawaii is Shavanna and I are exposed to many different cultures, so that’s part of our lifestyle here,” Ho says. “Many different languages are spoken here, and we interact with many different cultures all the time, so Shavanna is going to fit right in [at the World Games].”

Throughout the past 21 years, Mahoe has been an athlete, an assistant coach and now a certified bocce official. She has also spent much of that time participating in athlete leadership opportunities.

“Being an athlete myself and getting the opportunity to travel and do these kind of things, it’ll feel like I’m leading the way for other athletes to become an official, and if they do, I can help train them,” Mahoe says.

Mahoe stays busy outside of Special Olympics as well: She has a job and takes part in hula dancing to connect with her culture. As Ho explains, Mahoe makes an impact beyond her efforts in Special Olympics.

In preparation for the World Games, Mahoe has worked hard to get ready for the competition. Expectations are high in Hawaii, but on the world stage, they’re even higher.

One challenge? It’s not bocce season in Hawaii and getting Mahoe officiating reps has been crucial. Special Olympics Hawaii athletes and staff members volunteer their time allowing Mahoe to get the practice that is needed ahead of the World Games.

“We want her officiating as much as she possibly can going into World Games,” Ho says. “Shavanna has been putting in hours upon hours of work into officiating so we can get all the cobwebs out and all the rules stuck back into her head.”

Mahoe has long awaited an opportunity like this, and she’s logged years of hard work and training, with a bit of patience tied in there. Soon, she’ll display that for the world to see.

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