For the first time-ever, a Special Olympics European Triathlon Competition was held as part of the Challenge Family Triathlon Series in Samorin, Slovakia on 21 May 2022. This year, the overall triathlon series features 33 races hosted by 27 countries.
It was exciting to see Special Olympics athletes welcomed to participate in a larger, global event. The Sprint Triathlon competition was hosted in cooperation with Special Olympics Slovakia and consisted of 750m swimming, 20kg cycling and 5km running. Special Olympics programs from around Europe including Italy, Israel, Monaco, Estonia, Finland and Slovakia took part in this inclusive event. Special Olympics competitors finished between 1-hour 15-minutes and 2-hours 47-minutes racing among some of the world’s top triathletes. During the medal ceremony, it was announced that Special Olympics athletes will be included in next year’s event.
One of the things that makes the Challenge Family race inclusive is that the clock doesn’t stop until the last athlete has crossed the finish line. One parent from Special Olympics Israel told me that his daughter trains up to three times per week. After seeing her work so hard, it was important that she have the opportunity to finish the race. For him, it was a reflection of the Special Olympics Athlete Oath that says, “Be brave in the attempt.”
For me, this competition proved that with committed coaching and the right training, Special Olympics athletes can compete in wider triathlon events. It also reminds me of what Mrs. Eunice Shriver used to ask me, “What are you doing differently to change the movement?”
I’d like to thank our technical delegate Dora Rozsa and the Challenge Family for doing a great job of hosting such an inclusive event.