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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


March 02, 2015 | North America: Colorado

Down syndrome

By Tiara West

I was born with Down syndrome and I have been in basketball for 10 years and no one said a bad word to me before. I don't like people being mean to me . I don't like that ! 😰View Story I was born with Down syndrome and I have been in basketball for 10 years and no one said a bad word to me before. I don't like people being mean to me . I don't like that ! 😰

About Tiara West:I am Tiara West to hanging out with my friends. and I also like music and helping other people. I like to color sometimes and playing card games. I like to play the Wii at home .
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March 02, 2015 | North America: Florida

I pledge to end the r word and change it to respect

By Rachel caylor rachel

I am Rachel I am 27 yrs old and I have a disability and I know I am just as Normal as anyone else on this earth the Lord made us for a reason and I have been made fun of picked on my whole life but I know that I am normal.View Story I am Rachel I am 27 yrs old and I have a disability and I know I am just as Normal as anyone else on this earth the Lord made us for a reason and I have been made fun of picked on my whole life but I know that I am normal and I have been in special olympics for 18 yrs and I love special olympics I play bowling and volleyball and I am a athlete leader I can't stand the r word it's not a good word it's very disgraceful for someone to call anyone that I pledge to end the word and it to be too ken out and changed to RESPECT it is very hurtful I don't like to be called that. Rachel caylor special olympics escambia county

About Rachel caylor rachel :Hi my name is Rachel caylor. I'm 27 yrs old I have been in special olympics escambia county for 18 yrs and I do bowling and volleyball I am a athlete leader.
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February 23, 2015 | North America: Kentucky

Kentucky Wesleyan College #NoRWord

By Mackenzie Weedman

This year Kentucky Wesleyan College's KEA-SP organization has gathered individuals from local disabilities services to represent students and adults with disabilities and to speak about their experience with the R word.View Story This year Kentucky Wesleyan College's KEA-SP organization has gathered individuals from local disabilities services to represent students and adults with disabilities and to speak about their experience with the R word. We are going to share information about the R word campaign at one of our KWC basketball games and have others pledge against saying the R word. This experience will be one of the biggest R word campaign exposures in Owensboro, KY.

About Mackenzie Weedman:I am a junior, softball player at Kentucky Wesleyan College in Owensboro, KY. I am the president of KWC's education program called KEA-SP. I am also employeed at Puzzle PIeces.
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February 19, 2015 | North America: North Carolina

Why do people call me the R-word and put it in their hearts and minds too?!!

By Bryan The Game Rogers #8 Special Olympics Volleyball Legend

Bryan "Intimidator Jr. Rogers with Miss Sprint Cup at Martinsville Speedway in 10-26-2014

I was Born on 9-20-1979 and I was about to die that day but god send his angels to give me a second chance to live and love everybody and most of all loving him too ALWAYS!View Story I was Born on 9-20-1979 and I was about to die that day but god send his angels to give me a second chance to live and love everybody and most of all loving him too ALWAYS! But the doctors classed me as a mentally slow learner, like they use the word: RETARDED! BUT(CRYING JUST A LITTLE) But it hard in my life and everybody feels the same way but some making and treating me funny cause that r-word is too much and makes me feeling like I wanted to die and go home with my lord jesus christ my savior and lord and most of all my beloved father in my whole life always Cause Now I'm a born again Christian since 2005 and forever cause I love my lord jesus christ Always! But I'm a Racing Fan of #88 Dale Jr. and #4 Kevin Harvick both of them and many more drivers of all cause I go to martinsville speedway in Martinsville Virginia since 2004,2008,2009,2012,2x: 2013, 2x: 2014 and both 2015 too Always But I was in high school since 1996-2000 and got a high school diploma and I was in SONC in 94, 96-99 end 00

About Bryan The Game Rogers #8 Special Olympics Volleyball Legend:I did Special Olympics Volleyball since 1994,1996,1997,1998,(1999?) and graduated with a High school diploma like all my friends do always! And I'm a #88 Dale Jr. Fan & #4 Kevin Harvick Fan too always
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February 19, 2015 | North America: Utah

Special Olympics at the Aspen 2015 Xgames. Thanks to Hannah Teter

By Copied from Utah News

When X Games Aspen returns for a 14th event in Aspen Snowmass, Colo., from January 22-25, the winter action sports and youth lifestyle festival will descend upon Buttermilk Mountain with an expanded and fully-medaled adaptive sport lineup.View Story SALT LAKE CITY, UT - Jan. 16, 2014 - When X Games Aspen returns for a 14th event in Aspen Snowmass, Colo., from January 22-25, the winter action sports and youth lifestyle festival will descend upon Buttermilk Mountain with an expanded and fully-medaled adaptive sport lineup and the return of the Snowmobile Hillcross and Speed & Style, showcasing the talents of more than 200 world-class athletes from around the globe. X Games Aspen 2015 - with live coverage on ESPN and ABC and an extensive array of content across digital platforms - is also presenting a Special Olympics Unified Snowboarding dual slalom competition on Thursday, Jan. 22. Each team will consist of one Special Olympics athlete and one X Games athlete participating in the dual giant slalom race on Buttermilk Mountain. Athletes will include X Games and Olympic Snowboard SuperPipe gold medalist and Special Olympics Global Ambassador Hannah Teter. As one of only 10 Special Olympics athletes, Special Olympics Utah's own Carson Geiger from the Utah State Aggies team was chosen to participate in Special Olympics Unified Snowboarding Races as part of this year's X Games in Aspen, Colorado on Thursday, January 22 from 3 p.m. - 4 p.m CST. Just 24 years old, Carson has been snowboarding for Special Olympics Utah since he was 16. Carson also participates in basketball, soccer and unified golf with his dad. He says that he has won a gold medal in every snowboarding event he has participated in, and his dream is to one day be chosen to go to National or World Games to compete with other athletes from around the world. He will leave Tuesday, Jan. 20, to fly to Colorado for the big event.

About Copied from Utah News:I am from Logan Utah and I love to snowboard. I am sad there is no more snowboarding in Utah. I wen to xgames. I love to snowboard.
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February 19, 2015 | Why I Support Special Olympics

Heart of a champion

By Katie Williams

Special Olympics has changed my life. I've been able to meet people all over the world and the United States. I've been to the world and national games. I'm a world and national champion swimmer.View Story Special Olympics has changed my life. I've been able to meet people all over the world and the United States. I've been to the world and national games. I'm a world and national champion swimmer. I've met Olympians Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin and Peter Vanderkaay and Garrett Webber Gale and Allison Schmitt and the mother of Missy Franklin. It's been a dream to see so many things. I've gotten my younger brother involved with Special Olympics with doing fundraisers though the state. It's been a dream come true...

About Katie Williams :My name is Katie Williams I'm 36 I'm an athlete that has competed in volleyball and swimming I'm a 2011 world games gold and silver medalist and 2014 national champion. Swimmer in the 100 free....
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February 19, 2015 | North America: Canada

my figure skating experience

By shianne mcdonad

YES I DO

I love skating for all the right reasons. I love being a girl who loves skating and can't wait to show everybody in the world what a dreamer like me can be growing up in life. By showing my skating skills, I show what it means to be athletic.View Story I love skating for all the right reasons. I love being a girl who loves skating and can't wait to show everybody in the world what a dreamer like me can be growing up in life. By showing my skating skills, I show what it means to be athletic.

About shianne mcdonad:I compete in competitions and and love skating and I love to win the world nationals AND CANTWAIT SHOW MY SKATING TO THE WORLD TO WIN TROPHY TO BRING HOME TO MY TEAM GRANDFALLS WINSOIR EAGLES .
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February 13, 2015 | North America: New York

Special Olympics

By Victor Colon

I want to say thank you very much for everything for Special Olympics and I love to traverl all over the state in New York, and I am always happy to be part of Special Olypmpics summer games and winter games. I have done Special Olympics for 24 years. I am happy for that.View Story I want to say thank you very much for everything for Special Olympics and I love to traverl all over the state in New York, and I am always happy to be part of Special Olypmpics summer games and winter games. I have done Special Olympics for 24 years. I am happy for that.

About Victor Colon:I have done Special Olympics for 24 years. I am happy about that.
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February 03, 2015 | North America: Ohio

How My Career in Special Olympics began

By Devon Deer

Hello my career in Special Olympics began five years ago in Springfield Ohio when I asked about the game of basketball if it was with in the Clark County Special Olympic Program. It was!View Story Hello my career in Special Olympics began five years ago in Springfield Ohio when I asked about the game of basketball if it was with in the Clark County Special Olympic Program. It was and besides basketball, I've been involved in Volleyball and Softball and Bowling. I'm a five time medalist, three silver and two gold, and I'm proud to be a part of Special Olympics. I hope I keep on going.

About Devon Deer:Hi im Devon Deer from Springfield Ohio and i'm happy to a part of Special Olympics
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January 19, 2015 | North America: Utah

Cousin WIll

By Katie Morrison

Why do you have to say the R-word? Is it kind? Do you even know that you are saying it? Think before you say, mostly saying the R-Word because that hurts people's feelings.View Story My cousin Will cant straighten his legs all the way, and he cant run or walk that fast either. My little cousins always run around and play, while he tries to play and do what they are doing. I love him with all my heart, and I dont understand what the R-word even means. People walk by people and say that word right in front of them, and never think before they speak. Will is a normal little boy doing what everyone else likes to do, and he can even be better than us! He is normal. Why do you have to say the R-word? Is it kind? Do you even know that you are saying it? Think before you say, mostly saying the R-Word because that hurts people's feelings. I don't understand how people can say what they want and laugh, and when people say stuff to them they get all mad and up in their face. It's not, nice is it!? Thinking before you say something is the nicest option ever! Be kind, and think what if that was me?!

About Katie Morrison:I love to dance, and help out the community! I'm Mormon and I love my cousin!
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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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