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 33 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.

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.

Stories Written by Special Olympics Athletes


August 12, 2014 | Europe Eurasia: Ireland

Flying High – Dublin Club Marks Tenth Anniversary

By Liam Holmes

Sports Club 15 was set up in 2004 in Dublin, Ireland. I joined at the beginning when I was age 11.View Story Our Special Olympics Sports Club 15 was set up in 2004 in Dublin, Ireland. I joined at the beginning when I was age 11. There are about 50 members at present - 33 are boys and 17 are girls. Derek is our head coach and has been in the club since the beginning. Parents and volunteers help run the sessions. There are many sports in the club which include basketball and football. My sport is basketball. Two months ago Sports Club 15 marked its tenth anniversary with a celebration in Weston Airport in County Dublin. We all went flying on small planes. I went with my friend Paul, his dad and the pilot. There was also a lovely meal including an enormous cake. Following this we had a disco, speeches and presentations. My Mum and Dad came to celebrate the event with me. On the day we were each given a red t-shirt with a picture of a plane on it and we all kept them as souvenirs. I enjoyed the flying so much. I am so happy to have been a part of Special Olympics Sports Club 15 for the last ten years.

About Liam Holmes:I am 22 years old. I am currently in college. I have been a member of Sports Club 15 in Ireland for the past ten years.
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August 11, 2014 | North America: Iowa

20 Years, 100 Victories, 1 Goal

By Jason Halkias

I have been blessed and privileged to have competed in 10 sports. Despite all my success in my career, my goal has never changed: to do my best, and never quit, whether win or lose.View Story I broke into the Special Olympics Iowa scene at age 8 in 1995, scoring my first career gold in my best sport of tennis. Nineteen years later, I scored my 100th career Special Olympics victory (68th gold medal to go along with 32 blue ribbons) with a victory in the mini javelin. But despite all my success in my career, my goal has never changed: to do my best, and never quit, whether win or lose. I have been blessed and privileged to have competed in 10 sports. I formerly competed in speed skating, basketball skills, roller skating, golf, and bowling. I currently compete in figure skating, powerlifting, tennis, track and field, and volleyball. To me, the best athletes are those who never quit, win or lose. For me, none more so than at the 2008 and 2013 SOI Winter Games in speed skating. In both instances, I raced in a 300 meters event with two other skaters, and both times I fell to the ice. Yet both times I knew I would not win but could still finish second, and I got up and did finish second both times.

About Jason Halkias:I have lived in Scott County in Iowa (either Bettendorf or Davenport) most of my life. Today, I primarily compete on the team called Scott County Masters. I also currently work at a local YMCA in Davenport and volunteer at a museum in Bettendorf.
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August 11, 2014 | North America: Virginia

How Special Olympics Changed my life

By Matthew S Hall

Special Olympics really changed my life because I now have a whole lot of friends I have made over the years. Special Olympics has taught me how to be a good teammate, a good team player and taught me a lot of confidence in myself.View Story My name is Matt. I am a Special Olympics Athlete for Special Olympics Virginia Area 8. I started playing Special Olympics 8 years ago for Area 18. I play basketball softball and soccer and track and field. Special Olympics really changed my life because I now have a whole lot of friends I have made over the years and I now have a job and I have graduated from high school on time. Special Olympics has taught me how to be a good teammate, a good team player and taught me a lot of confidence in myself. Special Olympics has helped me become a better leader for my teams and it has helped me develop people skills and be a better person in life. Special Olympics has taught me that even though we athletes have huge barriers to overcome everyday that there is a light at the end of every tunnel, that everything and anything is possible and we can overcome anything and every challenge we face everyday. I have learned in Special Olympics that we are all winners. Winning and losing does not matter.

About Matthew S Hall:My name is Matt Hall I am from Roanoke Virginia I am an athlete for Special Olympics Virginia area8. I am the son of a decorated Desert Storm Veteran my father. I graduated from Alleghany High School in Clifton Forge Virginia. I work at Rowe Fine Furniture in Elliston Virginia. I have two dogs Luke and Lucky. I am 29 yrs old.
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August 11, 2014 | North America: Illinois

Finn Twins In Special Olympics Illinois

By Jean & Jan Finn

My Stepdads Tom Reynolds and Robert Christian was in the 4th Degree and they were at the opening ceremonies when we wre at the ILLINIOS Special OLYMPICS Summer games! It was so much fun!View Story My Stepdads, Tom Reynolds and Robert Christian, were in the 4th Degree and they were at the opening ceremonies when we were at the Ilinois Special Olympics Summer games! It was so much fun!

About Jean & Jan Finn:Our Names are Jean & Jan Finn We are originally from San Jose, IL! We were born in St.Francis Hospital In Peoria IL! We went to School in Delevan for awhile and then went to San Jose IL Schools! WE love being In Special Olympics!
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August 08, 2014 | North America: Michigan

The R word is out!

By Hannah

My name is Hannah. I have mild Asperger's and very mild dyscalculia, and the R word is a no-no word. The R word is a medical term to describe someone who is an invalid, but the R word CANNOT be used as a joke.View Story My name is Hannah. I have mild Asperger's and very mild dyscalculia, and the R word is a no-no word. The R word is a medical term to describe someone who is an invalid, but the R word CANNOT be used as a joke.

About Hannah :I have mild Asperger's and very mild dyscalculia, which are medical terms saying that I have trouble with math AND that I stink at expressing myself. But I do skating at Suburban Ice.
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July 29, 2014 | North America: Texas

My life inside Special Olympics

By Jabbar Hasan

"I remember the days back then when I wouldn't be able to learn. I remember the days when I wouldn't be able to graduate from High School." That was one of the best quotes from Loretta Claiborne.View Story "I remember the days back then when I wouldn't be able to learn. I remember the days when I wouldn't be able to graduate from High School." That was one of the best quotes from Loretta Claiborne. That was the one video I watched Loretta speak to the Florida athletes everyday on Youtube. Before I became a Special Olympics athlete in Texas, I tried out for my middle school basketball team in the Aldine district. That did not work so well, but I became the manager of the team. Also, my mother passed away in 2006. In 2007, I started my high school life in Eisenhower High School. During one day in P.E. class, I picked up a basketball and started shooting baskets. So, that gave me an idea. "Why don't you give it a shot? You can show your talents," My voice in my head said. So my teacher gave me a form to take home to my dad to fill it out and return it the next day. So, here I am in 2014, in my 8th year as an athlete in Houston, Texas, my goal is to be just like Loretta, to be the athlete.

About Jabbar Hasan:I am a basketball-avid fan who knows about the NBA. I play basketball, softball , track and field and bowling. My goal is to make it to the National games and World games for basketball and bowling. My favorite person when I was growing up was Loretta Claiborne. She loves running. I do too.
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July 29, 2014 | North America: Massachusetts

Anything Is Possible

By Sean Curtis

Been in Special Olympics since I was 8. I love meeting new people from all over the world. I'll do Special Olympics as long as my body will let me.View Story Been in Special Olympics since I was 8. Did it in a few states. (Massachusetts, Maine, Florida, New Hampshire and now back to Massachusetts.) Been on TV and in the newspaper. Met a lot of people in Special Olympics. Met my fiance Stef in Special Olympics. Been on a lot of teams. Love to thank them for pushing me. Paula Murphy, Paula O'Rourke, Dennis Dean Sr, Amy Kirkland and my step dad Dave, also athletes, co-workers and boss. I also did World Games 1999 in North Carolina for powerlifting for Team USA. Met celebs. Got out of my comfort zone and did powerlifting for non-Special Olympics, drug-free. Was 7 time state champ. I love meeting new people from all over the world. I'll do Special Olympics as long as my body will let me. There are still some more stuff I have to do before I hang it up. I did all the sports Special Olympics provided at the time, now there is more. National Games I haven't done. Be on the radio. Also the many other sports. World games would be good. Last but not least, hall of fame. I'm 38 now. I took some time off. But now me and Stef are back in it. See us at an event.

About Sean Curtis:I love to write,draw,travel,family is awesome. Love my pets. Love sports. Love taking challenges head on. Love to cook and bake, love movies and music. Love local. Looking for a team stef and I can be on for other sports. Live in Rutland, ma. Trying to get a job. Love the man up stairs(God) not into politics. Love my girl stef. Love to spread my experiences with other people. It's like a ripple effect. They tell me about theirs. I just want to inspire people. Make them feel good. Listen to them. Help them if I can. Hard work really pays off. Tell them reach for goals they can never get and do it no matter how crazy it is. Prove people wrong. Keep reaching for the stars and you might get one. I'm a fun guy. Can be crazy at times. I love special Olympics world wide. Every team.Team is never TEA-I-M. You are like a group of wolf's you gotta take care of your pack. I called every team I was on family. That's just me. Love ya all. Peace and God bless
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July 21, 2014 | North America: Mississippi

Mark played golf

By Mark David Setzer

My name is Mark Setzer and I am 41 years old today. I played golf in New Jersey at the National Golf Tournament in Newark, NJ.View Story My name is Mark Setzer and I am 41 years old today. I played golf in New Jersey at the National Golf Tournament in Newark, NJ. I really had a great time there, and I would like to thank my parents, David and Barbara Setzer, Auntie and Uncle Jerry who came to see me that Monday to visit and head off to my hole. I really want to thank everybody who helped us get there safely and back, wonderful trips, and very well done. I came in 3rd place with a total of 187, 57 on the first day, 64, on the second day and the last day on Wednesday June 21st, 67. Great weather!

About Mark David Setzer:I am a resident at the Baddour Memorial Center in Senatobia, MS. I work on campus and work with Fedex running high speed printers and scanning airbills that goes all over the world. I would like to personally thank Shannon Adams, and Joann Drummright who really helped me move to level 4 to Level 5 which is 18 holes and I am looking forward to go to Rockvale, TN on July 27th and 28th and play golf. Shannon Adams is a golfer herself, and she is a great friend of the Baddour Center, she works very hard and she has great personality and Joann who works extremley hard getting their athletes to their carts on time. Well done to Shannon and Joann. I wish we had more people at the Baddour Center to learn golf, and it is fun once you get used to it.
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July 21, 2014 | North America: New York

Special Olympics

By Katy Sanchez

In high school I really didn't have any friends at all. I used to be shy and also not really know what to say to other people. Special Olympics really helped me find a lot of friends.View Story In high school I really didn't have any friends at all. I used to be shy and also not really know what to say to other people. After I joined Special Olympics starting in 2007, it really helped me find a lot of friends and find my voice. I have overcome a lot of obstacles in my life but the Special Olympics staff has and still helps me today. I am an athlete from Special Olympics New York and I am also a Global Messenger, too. People say I am a good speaker and a great athlete. My two goals are to compete in the World Games one day and also be International Global Messenger.

About Katy Sanchez:My name is Katy Sanchez. The sports I play are soccer, floor hockey, basketball, track and field, cycling and now a Triathlon. I just earned a bronze medal in the Triathlon at Special Olympics USA Games during June 14 to 21st! I like to hang out with friends, go to the movies, play on my computer.
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July 14, 2014 | North America: Rhode Island

Got home fron New Jersey

By Christina Peacock

I am finally home from New Jersey. I got 2 gold medals and a 6th place. I had lots of fun with team Rhode Island.View Story I am finally home from New Jersey. I got 2 gold medals and a 6th place. I had lots of fun with team Rhode Island. I had great moments with other kids from all over the world. it was so great that I went because I went to different events like the Trenton Thunder baseball game And the dinner cruise and the Special Olympics Town. This was a great for me to do this because one of our coaches did a great video of team Rhode Island. He was the coach of powerlifting. Our head of our delegation was a person that has a heart for our team. She is a great role model for team Rhode Island.

About Christina Peacock:I am a good team member and I am a good hard worker and I soport my team as well as my coaches to . I love to work hard and make other people happy as we'll I can do
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Special Olympics Blog

Bursting with Pride

"I’m looking forward to the day when Mary will become a Special Olympics Young Athlete. I cannot wait."read more »

Posted on 2014-07-25 by Ryan

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