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Our Athletes

Athletes are the heart of Special Olympics. Our athletes are children and adults with intellectual disabilities from all around the world. They are finding success, joy and friendship as part of our global community. They're also having lots of fun! 

Members of the female football team from SO Bahamas rush in for hugs after a victory

Be a Fan of Joy. Trenice Bell gives a victory hug to Shaniqua Newbold as more teammates rush in to celebrate. The moment came after a Team Bahamas win at the Special Olympics Jamaica Football Invitational Competition.

Who Are Our Athletes?

Everybody is different. Special Olympics is for people who are different because they learn new skills slowly. They may not understand ideas that other people learn easily. They are different in other ways as well. They have an intellectual disability, or ID.

Intellectual disabilities happen in all cultures, races and countries. The goal of Special Olympics is to reach out to the 200 million people in the world with ID.

Our more than 4.4 million Special Olympics athletes – ages 8 years old and up -- come from more than 170 countries. We also have a Young Athletes program for children ages 2 to 7.

At any age and in every country, our athletes are learning new skills, making new friends and gaining in fitness and confidence.


About Intellectual Disability

Special Olympics is a global movement of people who want to improve the lives of people with intellectual disabilities. But what are intellectual disabilities? Learn More

Everyday, Everywhere

Special Olympics trainings and competitions happen 365 days a year in more than 170 countries.

We offer 32 Olympic-style summer and winter sports. So whatever your age or skill level, Special Olympics has something for you. Many athletes start in one sport, then go on to try others.

Through sports, our athletes are seeing themselves for their abilities, not disabilities. Their world is opened with acceptance and understanding.They become confident and empowered by their accomplishments. They are also making new friends, as part of the most inclusive community on the planet -- a global community that is growing every day.

Abdel-Raman Hassan is an athlete whose life changed after he joined Special Olympics. He's a swimmer with ID from Saudi Arabia. He is also partially paralyzed. Yet he doesn't let anything -- or anyone -- put limits on his abilities.  

His talent for swimming did not come naturally or easily. Abdel-Raman's father says it took him a month to hold his breath underwater for three seconds. It took him a year to swim a distance of one meter. He did not give up. Abdel-Raman went on to win gold medals in 25- and 50-meter races at World Summer Games. He is a champion.


Not Alone

What is it like having ID? David Egan of Virginia says it can be difficult, but that joining Special Olympics helped him a lot. “It was hard for me to accept the fact that I have Down syndrome. But it became easier when I joined Special Olympics and I discovered that I was not alone.”

Over the years, David has taken part in soccer (football), basketball, ice skating, softball and swimming. He says the confidence he built through Special Olympics has helped him find and keep a job for the last 15 years.

From Athletes to Leaders

Through sports training and competitions, Special Olympics helps people with ID find joy, acceptance and success. As their lives open up, athletes gain the confidence that comes with achievement. They feel empowered. They are ready to take on new challenges to make use of their new abilities.

They can become mentors for other athletes. They can train to become coaches and officials. They can also move toward a more public role as a speaker or spokesperson. They can speak to audiences and journalists about the positive changes that Special Olympics helped bring about in their lives. (Read more about our International Global Messengers from around the world here.)

At Special Olympics, our athletes are empowered to share their many gifts and talents with society. Yet, it's more than that. Our athletes also become empowered to be leaders in society -- and teach us all about acceptance and understanding. (Learn more about Special Olympics Athlete Leadership programs here.)

Stories Written by Special Olympics Athletes


December 12, 2014 | Africa: Kenya

Inclusion and Acceptance

By Jeff Bisley

My self making a block (bib no.7)

My life has changed since I joined Special Olympics Kenya, I appreciate the way the coaches dedicate themselves in giving us consistent training.View Story My life has changed since I joined Special Olympics Kenya, I appreciate the way the coaches dedicate themselves in giving us consistent training. When my coach invited us to play Unified beach volleyball I thought that it would be very difficult to have a meaningful experience since the unified partners would be highly skilled than us. But over time I have I began to see that we were all learning from our coach and also helping each other in training. Training and competing with the unified partners has given me a lot of confidence both on and out of the field. I don't fear interacting with my peers without intellectual disabilities any more. I thank Special Olympics for promoting inclusion,slowly everybody will be able to understand us and include us in their day to day life.

About Jeff Bisley:I am 20 years and play volleyball as well middle and long distance track events.
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December 12, 2014 | North America: Ohio

Sharing Experiences Can Spread Awareness

By Morgan Leach

I'm a student at the University of Mount Union and in one of my classes one of my friends gave a speech about how she works with people with disabilities at her church. She gave a few stories about them and how much they have changed her life and it was so inspiring.View Story I'm a student at the University of Mount Union and in one of my classes one of my friends gave a speech about how she works with people with disabilities at her church. She gave a few stories about them and how much they have changed her life and it was so inspiring. At the end of the presentation she mentioned r-word.org and I knew I had to pledge. I never liked the r-word it is a very unnecessary word to use regardless of the circumstance. I'm very happy that I took the pledge today and that something such as this is raising awareness.

About Morgan Leach:I am on the track team at the University of Mount Union, also in color guard and I am an active sister in the sorority Delta Sigma Tau. One day I will love to work with Special Olympics.
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December 12, 2014 | North America: New York

My story

By Katy Sanchez

My name is Katy Sanchez , I am a Special Olympics athlete and Global Messenger. The sports I participate in are soccer, golf, floor hockey, basketball, track and field, cycling and triathlons. I started Special Olympics in 2007.View Story My name is Katy Sanchez , I am a Special Olympics athlete and Global Messenger. The sports I participate in are soccer, golf, floor hockey, basketball, track and field, cycling and triathlons. I started Special Olympics in 2007. I started with basketball, I fit in right away and start playing and I said to my parents I want to join the Special Olympics and they went for it because they want me to happy and the rest is history! I enjoy spreading the word about Special Olympics. I like to talk about Special Olympics because it's a wonderful cause. I get to talk about my experiences. I also like to get people to change their hearts and minds about seeing us with disabilities and to see the challenges we face everyday. In Special Olympics we show them our abilities! Here is my quote about Special Olympics "Never look back. Always look forward to your future and what it will bring to you. We are here to make a difference in the lives of others. Chose to be inspired by acts of others."

About Katy Sanchez :People say I inspire other people! I have overcome in my life within the last year but Special Olympics has been there for me!
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December 01, 2014 | Why I Support Special Olympics

Two different worlds one purpose-UNITY

By lillian chaparro

Special Olympics brings people from different countries all over the world to be united as one. For people with and without disabilities, Special Olympics helps people all walks of life to love, accept, respect life, and yes, promote dignity!!View Story Special Olympics brings people from different countries all over the world to be united as one. For people with and without disabilities, Special Olympics helps people all walks of life to love, accept, respect life, and yes, promote dignity!! I keep in touch with Special Olympics every day because I can relate to the issues we go through day by day even in our own homes and programs we go to. We may be from two different worlds but we also have a lot of hopes and dreams to reach our goals and have a lot of talents we like to share with everyone we meet around us. Inspiration equals motivation, that is what Special Olympics to me is all about. UNITY!!!! Thank you so much! I love to be inspired by all of you!!!!!!

About lillian chaparro:I'm from the lower east side in manhattan and live with my family.
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November 26, 2014 | North America: Maine

My story

By Sydney Pitts

When I went on the track, I was nervous, but I did it, and that's the true meaning of bravery.View Story When I went on the track, I was nervous, but I did it, and that's the true meaning of bravery.

About Sydney Pitts:I am 13 years old. I love frozen, princesses, watching tv, drink OJ, watching ice skaters on tv, and dance lessons on youtube.
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November 21, 2014 | Asia Pacific: Pakistan

“One of the happiest days of my life”

By Asim Zar

Hello. I have been swimming for last seven years and recently I participated in the Regional & National Games 2014 held by Special Olympics Pakistan. The encouragement by the Coaches & other fellow athletes made me feel important.View Story Hello. I have been swimming for last seven years and recently I participated in the Regional & National Games 2014 held by Special Olympics Pakistan. The encouragement by the Coaches & other fellow athletes made me feel important. After games, team was invited at a club where Regional men’s swimming championship was going on. There were about 300 spectators and Special Olympics Pakistan athletes were invited to swim alongside main stream swimmers. Seeing so many people, I was so nervous & afraid but instead I wanted to prove myself and this was a golden opportunity for me. I performed my best that day & could hear everyone cheering & shouting and when I got to the finish line we were announced the winners. It was the encouragement I got from all around me. This Gold medal I won, all credit goes to Special Olympics Pakistan & my family for believing me & giving confidence. I also was given the mike to say a few words. I grab the mike & showed my excitement like never before. I`m proud to be a part of Special Olympics.

About Asim Zar :My name is Asim Zar and I am 27 years old special athlete and currently working in “DANPAK” food factory as a general helper in packaging department.
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November 19, 2014 | North America: Guadeloupe

This is My Life

By sharon

My uncle hates this word because some of my family have intellectual disabilities. So does he. We live in downtown.View Story My uncle hates this word because some of my family have intellectual disabilities. So does he. We live in downtown.

About sharon:I'm blond and short and the head of the basketball team.
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November 13, 2014 | North America: Pennsylvania

How I Became a Marathon Runner

By Ernie Roundtree

I was told that I can't do that because of my asthma and my disabilities I wouldn't survive. When I was 16 I started competing in track and field in Special Olympics in high school. Special Olympics Pennsylvania taught me to believe in myself.View Story When I was a kid my dream was to run in a marathon. It all started watching the new York marathon on tv and I told my biological family that one of these years I want to run the marathon. I was told that I can't do that because of my asthma and my disabilities I wouldn't survive. When I was 16 I started competing in track and field in Special Olympics in high school. Special Olympics Pennsylvania taught me to believe in myself and my coach Gigi told me, "Ernie, you can do anything you want if you put your mind to it." On 2014 of January I ran my first marathon at Disney World and finished at the time of 6 hours 24 minutes and 25 seconds. I was so amazed at what I accomplished. On May 18 2014 I completed it on my second marathon, finishing with the time of 5 hours 31 minutes and 28 seconds. I would like to thank Special Olympics Pennsylvania and my coach Gigi for teaching me to have faith in myself and I could do anything I can do if I can put my mind to it and not let my disability stop me from fulfilling my dreams.

About Ernie Roundtree:My name is Ernie Roundtree and I am an athlete and athlete representatives from Monroe County Special Olympics Pennsylvania
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November 05, 2014 | Asia Pacific: Pakistan

Believing In My Dreams

By Haseeb Abbasi

Hello, my name is Muhammad haseeb Abbasi.I am sixteen years of age I’m a proud Special Olympics Pakistan Athlete Recently went to Karachi to participate in Special Olympics Pakistan National Games 2014-2015 I took part in 10 km cycling competition and won silver medal. To me winning orView Story Hello, my name is Muhammad haseeb Abbasi.I am sixteen years of age I’m a proud Special Olympics Pakistan Athlete Recently went to Karachi to participate in Special Olympics Pakistan National Games 2014-2015 I took part in 10 km cycling competition and won silver medal. To me winning or losing means you are still at the TOP, which is what Special Olympics, is all about There is nothing to lose here. Special Olympics Pakistan has broken the most difficult barrier of my life was my voice. Being Autistic Verbal language was tough it was difficult for me to speak up for myself. My confidence to speak has improved tremendously since from day 1 when my Coach Arshad Javaid believed in me and provided me with an opportunity on the stage with a microphone to introduce myself with fellow Athletes of Special Olympics Pakistan. The biggest reward of my life from Special Olympics is that they have given me voice and I cannot imagine my life without Special Olympics Pakistan .I wan

About Haseeb Abbasi:Hello, my name is Muhammad haseeb Abbasi.I am sixteen years of age
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November 05, 2014 | Asia Pacific: Pakistan

My Experience as a Health Ambassadors

By Jasmine Sharif

The Family Health Forum in Lahore, Pakistan, was held from 19th October till 25th October 2014. Coordinator Ms. Asma Hasan and I flew to Lahore for it.View Story The Family Health Forum in Lahore, Pakistan, was held from 19th October till 25th October 2014. Coordinator Ms. Asma Hasan and I flew to Lahore for it. First we went to Faisalabad by road for Family Health Forum Program held at the Chenab Club. I helped in welcoming, registration and seating the guests, then I gave my PowerPoint presentation about Special Olympics. We did not have the Health Ambassadors training because there is no Athlete Leadership program in Faisalabad but will start soon. Back in Lahore the Family Health Forum/Health Ambassadors training was held. I trained 12 athlete leaders to welcome, register, escort guests to seats, give goody bags and serve juices. One of our athlete leaders gave a speech about how Special Olympics has changed his life for the better. On 25th October 2014 a “Safeguard Carnival” was organized at the PAF Ground by Procter and Gamble Company. AlPs and the Young Athletes attended with their families. Along with volunteers each Alps athlete was in charge of a stall. I was in the face painting

About Jasmine Sharif :my name is Jasmine Sharif, and I am an athlete boardmember
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Special Olympics Blog

Sport and Tech Team Up for Good

Now, thanks to Microsoft, athletes, coaches and families will have rapid access to useful information about their scores, times, personal bests, fitness and health. Special Olympics can use this capability to dramatically improve the lives of people in our Movement.  read more »

Posted on 2014-10-27 by Janet

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