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One Year On: Athletes Reflect on the Powerful Legacy of the Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023

As the Special Olympics movement celebrates the one-year anniversary of Berlin 2023, athletes from across Europe reflect on the impact that the Games had on their lives through a series of five compelling videos.

The Berlin Games, which took place from 17 – 25 June, 2023, was the world’s largest inclusive sports event with over 6,500 Special Olympics athletes with intellectual disabilities from 178 delegations coming together to compete in the German capital for the first time in the movement’s history. One year later, five athletes are looking back on their experiences to tell their stories in a series highlighting the transformative impact of the Games.

Through the series, Special Olympics Great Britain’s football player Bradley Stuart, German track and field athlete Tamara Röske, Italian swimmer Anita Greco, Irish golfing twins Trudy and Sarah Hyland and Spain’s basketball player Andrea Ballesta Castelltort reveal how the Games have influenced their lives, and those of their families and communities. Bradley, Tamara and Anita’s stories were created thanks to funding provided by the European Union (EU).

Speaking ahead of the series launch, David Evangelista, Regional President and Managing Director of Special Olympics Europe Eurasia (SOEE), a regional office of Special Olympics, Inc. (SOI), says, “This compelling series featuring athletes from across our region highlights both the power of the Special Olympics experience and the way our Games can move people to act for positive, social change. The series shows that the Games offer not only a short term high in the joyous moments of the Opening Ceremony or the thrill of excelling on the world stage, but a sustained sense of pride, confidence and solidarity that remains with them long after they return home. These athletes and their families emerged from the Games motivated to bring our mission to more communities across Europe Eurasia—as they look to highlight the way in which our Games drive considerable action to make inclusion a reality for all.”

Tamara’s Story: “Due to World Games, Tamara is a role model.”

Model, actress and clarinet player Tamara Röske from Stuttgart, also a talented Special Olympics Germany track and field athlete, was determined to prove something in Berlin, "I want to show everyone what I can do," she declares. Her coach, Natja Stockhause, notes how Tamara’s fellow athletes look up to her since her return from the Games, “Now, due to the success at World Games, [Tamara] is a role model for others in our sports group.”

Bradley’s Story: “If I didn’t go to the World Games, I don’t think I’d have ever got a job.”

Bradley—a Special Olympics football player from Essex in Great Britain—underscores the transformative influence of sport that the Berlin Games had on his identity, "If I never started playing football, I don't think I would ever be who I am today. I think I’d be in my room and not really doing anything.” He now holds a bronze medal from the Berlin Games and works at a trade tools and accessories company, Screwfix. Bradley even credits his new job to the social confidence he gained at World Games. He says, “If I didn’t go [to the World Games], I don’t think I’d have ever got a job.”

Anita’s Story: “It was the most intense [experience] in her life since the moment she was born.”

Anita, who trained amid the natural splendour of Lake Como in Italy, shares her love for open water. In a heartfelt revelation, Anita and her family express that the Berlin Games were not just a competition but an unparalleled experience, “the most intense in her life since the moment she was born.” Her mother adds, “In Berlin she matured so much. She feels like she is able to do things on her own now.”

Sarah and Trudy’s Story: “They were so proud, and we were so proud of them.”

Special Olympics Golfing duo Sarah and Trudy Hyland returned from the Berlin Games to their hometown in Cobh, County Cork as celebrities with hundreds of people lining the streets to welcome them back. “We couldn’t go the airport without journalists catching us,” Sarah notes gleefully. The pride in the community on their return from Berlin is palpable. Their coach, Nuala Lydon notes, “They were so proud, and we were so proud of them.”

Andrea’s Story: “I had a very special experience as a person and as a player.”

For Andrea Ballesta Castelltort who lives in Barcelona, the Berlin Games continued a journey that began at the 2019 Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi. She says, “I had a very special experience as a person and as a player. It was a very demanding competition too, highlighting the relationship with other countries and the climate of friendship in the Spanish National Team.”

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