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


September 24, 2014 | North America: Iowa

How I got involved with Special Olympics

By Shannon Billick

I got involved with Special Olympics through Prairie Schools. I love it and it is a fun way to meet new people and a good way to also be able to enjoy what you like to do best.View Story I got involved with Special Olympics through Prairie Schools. I love it and it is a fun way to meet new people and a good way to also be able to enjoy what you like to do best. I like bowling best because I get to roll the ball down a lane and score some points. I like doing the spring track and field because my friends and teachers want me to get involved. I love it.

About Shannon Billick:I am in love with running and Special Olympics
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September 20, 2014 | North America: Ohio

Heading to Ohio State Meet in 2014 Winter

By David Tripathy

David Tripathy 14 has all 3 gold medals in M.E. Lyons YMCA.

What happens when you are going to be a star at the Columbus in a State swim meet of Team Ohio and you have a communication disorder? Only one boy who is a gold medalist can answer that question.View Story What happens when you are going to be a star at the Columbus in a State swim meet of Team Ohio and you have a communication disorder? Only one boy who is a gold medalist can answer that question. The Cincinnati Bullet, David Tripathy, qualified for the meet in Princeton High school and M.E. Lyons YMCA. There's something wonderful happening about his life. He got 17 gold medals and 2 silver at Hamilton County Special Olympics swim meets. Which is in Cincinnati, Ohio. When David put those medals all together he had 19 Hamilton County Special Olympics medals in all. When he was practicing at his school, Indian Hill High School, David was looking for school records and best times. His all stroke in School meet did not go so well last winter. However in all of his events, he got personal best to beat his own time. At the end of Winter season he so happy. When he was 12, David swam doggy paddle at I.H. Swim Club in hot season. When he was 13, he was ready.

About David Tripathy:I love People, I love video Games, I want to compete in USA Special Olympics Team. I love the Cincinnati Bengals, I love the Cincinnati Reds, I'm a senior in school, I got Straight A's in my report card, I have goals for practices and trainings and meets, I have a girlfriend, and I love my family.
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September 20, 2014 | Europe Eurasia: Latvia

Our Interview During the European Games

By Janis Sneiders and Janis Vitols, Bocce athletes, Special Olympics Latvia

Janis Sneiders and Janis Vitols, Bocce athletes, Special Olympics Latvia being interviewed.

This morning, we had our very first interview! We were a little nervous at first. We wanted to do as good as possible, we were afraid perhaps we do not understand the questions.View Story This morning, we had our very first interview! Special Olympics athletes asked us if we could answer some questions on the camera. We were a little nervous at first. We wanted to do as good as possible, we were afraid perhaps we do not understand the questions. In the end, it was very easy, because the questions were not hard questions. On this photo, we are telling about ourselves, about what we did at the European Games and what we feel about our experience. We are very happy about this interview. We are very proud!

About Janis Sneiders and Janis Vitols, Bocce athletes, Special Olympics Latvia:We both go to the same internat (Pelchu Special School, Latvia). We have been playing Bocce for 2 years. We are very happy to be a part of the Special Olympics European Summer Games.
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September 20, 2014 | North America: Connecticut

Cerebral Palsy

By Logan Lavallee

I got bullied everyday because of my disability. I hate it when people around me at the r-word "retard" because I get upset by it. TAKE THE PLEDGE TO SPREAD THE WORD TO END THE WORD!!!!!!!View Story I got bullied everyday because of my disability. I hate it when people around me at the r-word "retard" because I get upset by it. TAKE THE PLEDGE TO SPREAD THE WORD TO END THE WORD!!!!!!!

About Logan Lavallee:I'm funny
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September 17, 2014 | North America: Washington

No Athlete to Super Athlete

By Elise Skovmand

When I turned 25 I joined Special Olympics. I have Cerebral Palsy. I liked water but didn't know how to swim. I wasn't doing well with sports when I was young, now I swim every day.View Story I am a swimmer. When I turned 25 I joined Special Olympics. I have Cerebral Palsy. I liked water but didn't know how to swim. I wasn't doing well with sports when I was young, now I swim every day. I have a friend who keeps me on task and reminds me to "Just keep swimming" in Nemo's world! Swimming has kept me active and helps me to be confident in the water and not be afraid. I strive for the Gold medals! Having good sportmanship is also part of the key to having fun. Now I am a super athlete!

About Elise Skovmand:I am a athlete. I like to Swim. I practice everyday!
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September 17, 2014 | North America: Illinois

Becoming a Falcon

By Cheryl Sweet

When I first became a Falcon, I didn't know what to expect. I was nervous and scared. The team made me feel like family and I made a lot of friends.View Story When I first became a Falcon, I didn't know what to expect. I was nervous and scared. The team made me feel like family and I made a lot of friends. I have played most of the sports and Love them!! I love my team and wouldn't pick a better team, coaches or parents of all the athletes! I most think my parents for taking to practices and the support they give me. We play together as a great team. I am very blessed to have you all in my life!

About Cheryl Sweet:I am a Special Olympics athlete. I love the sports I play and I am a state champ in Bocce
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September 12, 2014 | North America: Virginia

my life

By sarah shockley

Hi my name is Sarah I'm 22 years old. I got bullied everyday that I went to school. It made me feel like I wasn't a person.View Story Hi my name is Sarah I'm 22 years old. I got bullied everyday that I went to school. It made me feel like I wasn't a person. Then I start to go to young life and they made me feel better about myself.so now I'm trying to spread the word to end the word, too.

About sarah shockley:Hi my name is Sarah and I been doing swimming for 6 years with special olympics.
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September 11, 2014 | North America: New York

What being a Special Olympics Athlete means to me

By Kara Siddons

I have been participating in Special Olympics since I was 8 years old in athletics. I love being a athlete and participating to do my best.View Story I have been participating in Special Olympics since I was 8 years old in athletics. I love being an athlete and participating to do my best, I have met many many friends being an athlete. I have been to two USA Special Olympics National Games, one in 2010 held in Lincoln, Nebraska, and the other in 2014 held in Princeton, New Jersey. I hope to get selected for the world games someday.I also think of my coaches as family and I am very greatful to my coaches for training me so well so I can always do the best I can and feel good about myself

About Kara Siddons:I have been a Special Olympian for 27 years in Upstate NY I started when I was 8 years old, I have been to many many local competitions and state games. I have also been to 2 USA National Games held in Lincoln Nebraska in 2010 and then in 2014 in Princeton New Jersey those were the funnest of my competitions because I had lots of friends I met
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September 05, 2014 | North America: New Jersey

Athlete Health Corner: Sharing health tips with my teammates

By Colleen Ciecura

Colleen Ciecura, has participated in Special Olympics since 1999 and competed in the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games. She also is a member of Special Olympics New Jersey Athlete Input Council. In her participation in Healthy Communities programming, she has lost 45 pounds so far. [Photo credit: 2014 Special Olympics USA Games]

As an Athlete Input Council member, I feel we need to get the message out there on how important good health and nutrition is and sharing healthy tips with each other.View Story As an Athlete Input Council member, I feel we need to get the message out there on how important good health and nutrition is and sharing healthy tips with each other. I’ve learned that I am capable of actually helping people and I can make a difference. I’m more confident, thanks to my involvement in Special Olympics and Healthy Communities. I’ve learned there are more things than training in sports that make a healthier athlete. Nutrition gives me the energy I need to succeed at my sports. Do not deny yourself! Just eat in moderation. A once a week treat is a good way to maintain or lose weight. I love being a part of Special Olympics and I always say the biggest influences in my life have been my mom, the Arc of Monmouth and Special Olympics!

About Colleen Ciecura:Colleen’s story is a great example of an Athlete Health Corner. If you are an athlete and would like to share healthy tips, please contact Renee Dease at rdease@specialolympics.org. For more information about the Athlete Health Corner, please visit http://www.specialolympics.org/Stories/General/Help_Me_Share_the_Athlete_Health_Corner.aspx.
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September 04, 2014 | Europe Eurasia: Ireland

Special Olympics Ireland Games Limerick 2014

By Chloe MacMullan

Our team

My name is Chloe MacMullan. I am a member of Dublin Sports Club 15 and I was picked to be part of our team to play at the Ireland Games.View Story My name is Chloe MacMullan. I am a member of Dublin Sports Club 15 and I am on the basketball team. I play as a forward on the team. I was picked to be part of our team to play at the Ireland Games where 1,500 athletes took part from June 12th-15th this year. We are in the Eastern Reigion team and we had lovely blue uniforms specially for the Games. The five different regions had different uniforms. We travelled from Dublin to Limerick on a special train. There were bands at the station, singing and drumming to cheer us on. We all paraded through the streets of Limerick to the Special Olympics Opening Ceremony in The People's Park. Everyone was clapping and cheering for us. The next day the serious sport began and we all did our best and enjoyed taking part. We played matches against all the other regions. My team came 4th, we were a bit disappointed but we had great fun and loved our trip to the Games in Limerick in 2014.

About Chloe MacMullan:My name Is Chloe MacMullan and I am a Special Olympics athlete. I am a member of Sports Club 15 basketball team in Dublin.
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Special Olympics Blog

Suneedhi: a Girl, a Clinic, a Dream

For a dental surgeon such as myself, screening was just the first step! i felt we needed to go beyond examinations to ensuring people with intellectual disability got any treatment that they needed. I felt I could help more. read more »

Posted on 2014-09-22 by Lynn

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