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Special Olympics Athletes Wow the Crowds at the 2024 FIBA Open

Eleven Special Olympics teams were among more than 1,000 basketball players at the recent FIBA Open in Mies, the largest 3x3 basketball tournament in Switzerland on 15-16 June 2024.
Four men in basketball kits compete for a bouncing basketball
Special Olympics Switzerland athlete Olivier Paccaud (second from left) in action on day one of the 2024 FIBA Open on 15 June.

After an intense two days of competition, Special Olympics Lithuania came out on top after beating Italy by just two points in a gripping final on the main court at FIBA’s Patrick Baumann House of Basketball. Here, at this central hub for world basketball, the crowd know exciting basketball when they see it, and this final was an exciting game of basketball! A fitting end to a weekend of fast-paced, fierce but friendly competition.

“I feel really good playing 3x3 basketball”

Among the 80-strong cohort of Special Olympics athletes and coaches who came to the FIBA Open showcase their talents was Swiss native Olivier Paccaud. Age 24, and from Montreux, Olivier has been playing basketball with Special Olympics for over six years. With 3x3, he has really found his niche. “I like 5x5 basketball but I really prefer 3x3. I feel really good playing this format,” Olivier says. He is so passionate about 3x3 that he has—with the encouragement of Special Olympics Switzerland—established his own team for players with disabilities, called Atypique 3x3. Apart from the excellent opportunity to compete that the FIBA Open offers, Olivier believes that Special Olympics’ participation sends a vital message. He states, “It is important that athletes with disabilities are recognised as athletes, and I think that the association with FIBA helps to bring this recognition.” Advocacy and visibility are areas where Olivier certainly knows a thing or two—he has been a member of the Special Olympics Switzerland Athlete’s Commission for four years, providing valuable input on the direction of Special Olympics across the country.

One man has his arms around a man in basketball kit and is speaking to him as they stand on an outdoor basketball court.
Lachezar “Lache” Stoyanov from Special Olympics Bulgaria discusses tactics with his coach on day two of the 2024 FIBA Open on 15 June.

“He has grown up so much as an athlete and a person”

While it was a short journey to Mies for Olivier, Lachezar “Lache” Stoyanov, age 22, had a somewhat longer trek from his home in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. Special Olympics tournaments are always worth the trip according to Lache and his coach, Tina Ggdimitrova. “Special Olympics has given him a lot of opportunities to meet different people and travel to different countries,” Tina notes, “It has opened his mind.” Tina first met Lache seven years ago and has seen a dramatic change in him in the intervening years. She continues, “I am very proud of him. He used to be afraid. In the past seven years, he has grown up so much as an athlete and a person, thanks to Special Olympics. I really don’t have enough words to express my emotions.”

A group of five basketball players in red kits stand alongside a man in a shirt and blazer holding up certificates to the camera.
Marcel Piekoszewski with his teammates from Special Olympics Germany at the award ceremony of the 2024 FIBA Open on 16 June.

Marcel Piekoszewski, age 14 and from Heilbronn in Germany, has been competing with Special Olympics for just one year. Like Lache, he appreciates the global nature of the FIBA Open. “This is my first international tournament. I am enjoying the opportunity to compete against players from other countries.” Although Germany was beaten in its final game against France, Marcel was upbeat and happy to embrace whatever competition comes his way next!

Seven people in matching tracksuits stand in a row holding certificates facing a man in a shirt and blazer.
The Special Olympics China team and their coach, Tian Lin, receive their certificates at the 2024 FIBA Open on 15 June.

By far the longest journey to Mies was taken by the Special Olympics China team and their coach, Tian Lin. Tian, who is a coach and lecturer in Xian Physical Education University, saw the huge benefit of the competition to the athletes. He noted, “It’s clear that sports—and experiences like this—can really change an athlete’s life. This is a precious opportunity for our team.” Tian saw how the athletes’ communication with each other transcended language barriers. “Although spoken language is an obstacle, their body language with each other is very friendly. They are constantly encouraging each other and taking photos with the opposition after the match, whatever the result!”

Special Olympics involvement in the FIBA Open 2024 was supported by Toyota Motor Europe.

Special Olympics at the FIBA Open 2024: 16 June, Finals Day Results

9:30 AMAustria 8


Switzerland II 9Pool A
9:45 AMGermany 2VFrance 4Pool B
10:00 AMSwitzerland I 6VBulgaria 1Pool C
10:30 AM Italy 11VHungary 9Semi-finals
10:45 AMNetherlands 10VChina 5Pool D
11:15 AMLithuania 5VItaly 3Final

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