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Community Impact

Special Olympics Badminton on the Rise—Celebrating World Badminton Day

two girls pose with badminton rackets in front of Special Olympics Chile Unified Schools’ sign
Francisca Belén Baldevenito Guadalupe and fellow Special Olympics badminton player at Special Olympics Chile Unified Schools event.

This World Badminton Day, Special Olympics is highlighting and celebrating the spirit of competition and the power of partnership within the sport of badminton in the Special Olympics Latin America (SOLA) region. Special Olympics’ sport federation partner, Badminton World Federation (BWF), created and now celebrates World Badminton Day annually on 5 July to promote fun and inclusive badminton opportunities worldwide.

Since 2020, thanks to the assistance and support of the BWF and Gallagher—the official partner of Special Olympics Sport and Coach programming—the number of Special Olympics badminton programs in Latin America doubled from 5 to 10 between 2020 and 2023.

The expansion of badminton has, and continues to, increase the number of athletes participating in inclusive sport which provides more opportunities than just physical health benefits. Sports help Special Olympics athletes learn new skills on and off the field of play, gain access to resources for health and wellness, expand their social boundaries and make new friends along with many other respective advantages.

The partnership between BWF and Special Olympics has allowed both organizations to better understand the sport across the Special Olympics movement and work in collaboration across sport development, competitions, partnerships and communications initiatives to not only increase participation in the sport, but also improve the overall experience for those players training and competing in badminton.

Building on the BWF’s work to create higher quality and more global badminton for Special Olympics athletes, Gallagher has aided in not only expanding the number of athletes participating in badminton in SOLA, but also increasing the number of Unified Partners (275, +686%), participants (2,412, +107%), certified coaches (171, +159%) and overall coaches (278, +198%) in the region.

Inclusive sport is at the forefront of Special Olympics’ mission in providing people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) have access to sport training competition, coaching, equipment, health information and care.

Special Olympics Chile badminton player, Francisca Belén Baldevenito Guadalupe, better known as Fran, is celebrating badminton in her hometown, Viña del Mar, sharing, “Practicing badminton and doing physical activities help me stay healthy. In Special Olympics, I love being able to represent my country and my school while also getting to know new friends.”

girl swinging badminton racket at shuttlecock
Francisca Belén Baldevenito Guadalupe at Special Olympics Chile Unified Schools event.

Fran, introduced through her school to Special Olympics badminton, recently competed in a Special Olympics Unified Badminton event in the Parque Estadio Nacional. This event was a way for her to showcase her talents on a court alongside fellow Special Olympics Chile badminton competitors from her area as well as a way for her to meet new people who share in her love and joy of the sport.

To the east of Chile in Paraguay, Thanya Monserrat Gehrmann López—Special Olympics Paraguay badminton player—competes in inclusive badminton with her local badminton club, Central Bádminton Club in Asunción, where athletes with and without IDD compete in badminton together on the same team in Unified events.

boy and girl with badminton rackets aimed at a shuttlecock
Thanya Monserrat Gehrmann López competing at Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023 with her partner

Thanya, who took home a silver medal in mixed doubles badminton at the Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023, shares how playing and competing in the sport has helped her.

“[Badminton] helped me socialize more, especially when I get asked ‘what is Badminton?’ It helps me want to improve myself every day as an athlete, and some day, become a professional player or a coach. It has also helped me become quicker in my day-to-day life. Thanks to badminton, I am motivated to know more about myself and what I can achieve, and it has even helped me learn of different cultures along the way.”
Thanya Monserrat Gehrmann López, Special Olympics Paraguay badminton player

Special Olympics’ Vice President of Sport Development, Jon-Paul St. Germain, spoke on the importance of partnerships in relation to Special Olympics badminton, “One of the best ways Special Olympics can provide a quality sport experience for Special Olympics athletes is with the help of partners like Gallagher and the Badminton World Federation. We are able to provide Special Olympics programs with the resources they need to develop strong coaches, deliver quality trainings and competitions as well as the expertise required to dive deep into the nuances and uniqueness of the sport.”

Special Olympics Latin America also has a strong partnership with Badminton Pan America, the regional confederation for badminton. Through their partnership, they have collaborated to help grow the sport for people with IDD, and helped facilitate partnerships between Special Olympics programs and national badminton federations so that the sport and its’ programming is sustainable.

man with badminton racket playing in a match
Special Olympics badminton player at Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023

Gallagher’s funds and grants to10 SOLA programs have gone towards equipment, coach education, development workshops and athlete training sessions. 48 uniform training kits have been supplied to 6 of the programs thus far, with each kit including 20 rackets, 6 half-dozen training shuttles and 2 nets. The coach education workshops target areas for coaches to advance and hone their knowledge and skills to help them become certified coaches. The development workshops and athlete trainings aid in bringing in new and existing Special Olympics athletes to the sport so they can learn and compete in badminton.

“I would love for more people to know about badminton so it can grow, and we can have more partners and opponents, it would be super fun and that way we could have a huge [badminton] family!”, Thanya said in response to what she would like people to know about inclusive badminton.

This World Badminton Day helps shed light on the massive growth of badminton across the Special Olympics movement, especially in the Latin America region. Special Olympics, with the help of partners BWF, Badminton Pan Am, and Gallagher, are assisting athletes like Fran and Thanya to continue their love of badminton through increased sport opportunities, new ways to analyze data, health information and care and other respective benefits.

The 2024 SOLA Regional Games taking place this October and the Special Olympics World Games in Santiago, Chile in 2027 will both feature badminton as one of the sports athletes can compete in.

Badminton in SOLA development

YearProgramsAthletesUnified PartnersParticipantsCertified CoachesCoaches
% Increase100%+89%+686%+107%159%198%

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