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My Journey with Special Olympics – Zhichen’s Story

Young man poses with football.
Zhichen poses before a Unified football practice

My name is Zhichen. I’m 17 years old and a student at the Chung Shan Industrial and Commercial School in the city of Kaohsiung and a Special Olympics athlete from Chinese Taipei. It is a vocational school and I’m learning about cars and how to keep them in great condition.

I grew up in the mountains. I’m Bunun, which is the indigenous people of my nation. For me and my family, life has been a bit hard. My parents passed away due to disease when I was three years old, so my aunt and grandma brought me up. I’ve worked with family members since I was a kid and I also help them hunt. I love being in nature and the mountains make me feel free.

I have always struggled in school. I’m not in regular classes and used to get angry when I had difficulties learning. I would often feel alone. This changed when I was introduced to Special Olympics.

Young man on the pitch playing football.
Zhichen runs toward the ball during a Special Olympics Chinese Taipei football match

My school became a Unified Champion School, and we shared a physical education class with all the other students. When I first tried to play sports with these other students, I felt shy and didn’t know what to do.

Through Special Olympics, I slowly began to be more comfortable and play sports with the other students. My teacher invited me to join our Unified football team, and it was such a great experience. We trained three times a week, and my Unified partners and I became good friends. They did not treat me strangely and I could express myself on the football field. We also chatted and played games together, just like ordinary high school students.

Our Unified football team trained together for a year and competed in the Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023. It was the most honorable memory to play in Berlin. I met people from other countries and exchanged gifts with them. I had my birthday in Berlin, and my team planned a celebration for me. I was deeply moved and even wanted to cry, because it was the first time that so many people celebrated my birthday, and so many people said "Happy Birthday" to me.

Three young men smiling for a photo.
Zhichen and his classmates enjoy their time in Berlin at the Special Olympics World Games

I would not have had all these experiences without my Special Olympics. Thank you for helping me try bravely and strive for victory. I want to introduce more people to Special Olympics and I hope that I can share my stories with other people to have more people participate in activities and have it help them, just like it helped me.

Group of young men showing their medals off.
Zhichen (second from left) and his teammates celebrate their success at the Special Olympics World Games in Berlin

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