Formula 1 driver and Special Olympics Global Ambassador Zhou Guanyu made a stop in Berlin at the Special Olympics World Games on 25 June to interact with Special Olympics athletes. Zhou, the first Chinese driver to compete in Formula One, spent some time with Special Olympics Great Britain athletes before also meeting with two Special Olympics athletes from China, hearing how their experiences at Games has had an impact on their lives. Unable to attend events and competition earlier in the week due to his own racing schedule, Zhou made sure to be in Berlin in enough time to experience a few events first-hand by attending final competitions during the Games and engaging with athletes.
“Watching the Games live; I feel pretty emotional. While watching gymnastics, I saw how each athlete was engaged in their performance, but also engaging with the other athletes, and it gave me a warm feeling. I was emotional because they were getting to do things they probably would never get to do without Special Olympics.”
Ahead of the British Grand Prix on 9 July, Zhou welcomed Special Olympics Great Britain athletes to Alpha Romeo hospitality at Silverstone, the home of motor racing. Jacob Fairweather (field hockey goalkeeper, won gold at Berlin 2023), James Huntington (cyclist, won silver medals in 10k time trial and road race) and Matt Chilvers (athlete and coach in tennis, and Special Olympics GB Athlete Leadership Development Officer) were given a VIP tour of the paddock. Zhou gave them a tour of the team garage and the pitlane before watching other F1 drivers on the track as they prepared for the rest of the week’s competitions.
While motor sport is not an official Special Olympics sport, carting is a great way to get youth and individuals with and without intellectual disabilities involved in the sport at a young age. The support of Zhou at World Games shows the impact Special Olympics has in the world of sport as the organization continues to connect and work with sports that are not currently officially recognized Special Olympics sports.
“I am honored to be a Global Ambassador for Special Olympics. I think Special Olympics and Formula 1 are well-matched in comparison to how much exercise and practice it takes to compete in sport and they both require a good team spirit,” said Guanyu.