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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 06, 2015 | North America: Massachusetts

In my own words how the r word makes me feel

By Emily Webster

My name is Emily Webster, and I do bowling for Special Olympics Massachusetts, and the one word I can't stand more than anything else is the r word.View Story My name is Emily Webster, and I do bowling for Special Olympics Massachusetts, and the one word I can't stand more than anything else is the r word. When I hear people use it I get angry enough to want to go up to them and tell them it is not ok to use that word, and when I do that I feel empowered and it is a very freeing feeling. Do not be afraid to speak up for yourself!

About Emily Webster:My name is Emily Webster, and I am proud to be a Special Olympics Bowling Athlete, and I am 28 years old.
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March 05, 2015 | North America: Pennsylvania

Lindsey the story of my life

By Lindsey Madden

My name is Lindsey I was born with cerebral palsy and mental retardation. I also have a birth mark on my face. Growing up with special needs was very hard. When I was still in school I was picked on every day. It hurt so bad I would cry every day.View Story My name is Lindsey I was born with cerebral palsy and mental retardation. I also have a birth mark on my face. Growing up with special needs was very hard. When I was still in school I was picked on every day. It got so bad that I was getting called the R word and it hurt so bad I would cry every day. I want everyone to see we are just like every one else. I hate being called the R word but I don't let people get me down. We can doing anything no matter what people say about us.

About Lindsey Madden :My name is Lindsey I have special needs but. I don't let that stop me from doing the thing I want too. I started doing special olmypic witch I love so much I so proud to be part of a great thing
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March 05, 2015 | North America: Rhode Island

How Much Things Changed

By Robert Macaux

I'm proud to be an unique individual

My name is Robert Macaux, I'm 32 years old and also born with Down syndrome. Throughout my life, I have been hearing a lot of people that use the r word way too often, and it can be very destructive to use since that word can hurt a lot of people emotionally.View Story My name is Robert Macaux, I'm 32 years old and also born with Down syndrome. Throughout my life, I have been hearing a lot of people that use the r word way too often, and it can be very destructive to use since that word can hurt a lot of people emotionally. I'm not just an Special Olympics athlete but also a big time advocate, so I been taking leadership courses with Advocates in Action. Right after I graduated with Advocates back in 2005, I put my leadership skills into action with The Down Syndrome Society of Rhode Island so I can speak out to everybody that labels such as the r word should never be used in any form or fashion. I was a broad member with them so I can go on a mission to spread public awareness to all unique individuals. Since I heard that people had been using that word, both me and my girlfriend are sharing our unique lives in every school system in RI, so that we can be a powerful team to remove negative labels forever.

About Robert Macaux:I am 32 years old and born with Down syndrome, and I'm also an athlete, actor, college student, advocate and a broad member with DSSRI.
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March 05, 2015 | North America: New York

Please don't use the R-WORD

By Kara Siddons

I have participated in Special Olympics since age 8. I was born in 1979 and my parents thought they had a healthy beautiful girl which was the case until I started school. That is when they discovered that I was different but they didn't love me any less.View Story I have participated in Special Olympics since age 8. I was born in 1979 and my parents thought they had a healthy beautiful girl which was the case until I started school. That is when they discovered that I was different but they didn't love me any less. They gave me a great upbringing and loved me just the same if not more. I went all through school being in Special Ed and being picked on because of different abilities that they didn't have. I was also made fun of in my neighborhood. My feelings were constantly being hurt and due to all of that I now suffer with my disability and also mental illnesses due to the bullies that made fun of me. It hurts and angers me to this day to hear the R-WORD being used either directly or indirectly.The worse feeling is when your own family members call you the word directly like example my niece will call me the R-Word when angry at me. I want to thank my mom and dad for accepting me for who I am and also my brothers who defended me when kids were picking on me.

About Kara Siddons:I'm learning disabled which I was diagnosed with when I entered school age Please pledge not to use the R-WORD it does hurt us that are differently abeled wether direct or indirectly,dont use please
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March 05, 2015 | North America: Ohio

I'm an Austic Adult

By Michelle B.

My family doesn't understand the use that word is awful. I'm high functioning austic. I was bullied all my life being called names mostly the r-word. I know what it's like to be different.View Story My family doesn't understand the use that word is awful. I'm high functioning austic. I was bullied all my life being called names mostly the r-word. I know what it's like to be different.

About Michelle B.:Im Michelle I'm a 22 year old austic women.
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March 05, 2015 | North America: Massachusetts

Disabled and With Friends

By alyssa malone

I have learning disabilities. I play field hockey, musical theatre and I am in four clubs. My friends talk to me. They help me in field hockey, the musical and clubs.View Story I have learning disabilities. I play field hockey, musical theatre and I am in four clubs. My friends talk to me. They help me in field hockey, the musical and clubs. One of the clubs is DECA. It helps me to learn about business. I was in a life skills and everyone who did it got a medal. Two of my friends were watching me.

About alyssa malone:I love to watch Pokémon. my dream is to become an actress. I would like to be in a movie.
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March 05, 2015 | North America: Maryland

Treat people with special needs like other people-we aren't different

By Chloe Thomas

Let's try to stop the r word cause it's gross. We don't need that word in our life. People with special needs are not any different from normal people, so give them respect.View Story Let's try to stop the r word cause it's gross. We don't need that word in our life. People with special needs are not any different from normal people, so give them respect.

About Chloe Thomas :I'm from Rockville Maryland and I have been with the special Olympics for 8 years I love it
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March 05, 2015 | North America: North Carolina

Being autistic

By Ashley White

I am Ashley and I have high functioning autism. I was diagnosed with autism at the age of 5. I shared my story about it on ESPN's E:60 "Perfect Victims" episode.View Story I am Ashley and I have high functioning autism. I was diagnosed with autism at the age of 5. I shared my story about it on ESPN's E:60 "Perfect Victims" episode. Numerous times I've been called the R-word by people because of my disability. It had hurt my feelings and self-esteem. I thought if I didn't have autism, I would be perfectly normal. But at the end of the day, what is a normal person when others have flaws, too? I work hard to the point I want to be the best person I can be. Whenever I hear someone say the R-word, it's offensive. People have used it as a funny/joking matter, but I find it disturbing and derogatory. I pledge to spread the end of the R-word.

About Ashley White:
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March 05, 2015 | North America: New York

I Would Like to Go to Brockport NY Here in Rochester

By GERI RICE

I would like to go to Brockport for swimming and then sometime to the World Games. I am working really hard and no one is giving me the credit to be able to do this. Also, OK, and I would like to get to the national Games. I am a strong swimmer and I have some great trainers that are working with me in the gym.View Story I would like to go to Brockport for swimming and then sometime to the World Games. I am working really hard and no one is giving me the credit to be able to do this. Also, OK, and I would like to get to the national Games. I am a strong swimmer and I have some great trainers that are working with me in the gym.

About GERI RICE:I am a strong athlete and I know if I put my mind to it, I can do anything I want in sports.
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March 05, 2015 | North America: Utah

I am a Special Olympics athlete

By Amber Gertsch

I am a Special Olympics athlet so this hits home to me. Growing up, I was made fun of all the time... I had this word directed towards me many time. I have been competing in Special Olympics for just a little over 16 years.View Story I am a Special Olympics athlet so this hits home to me. Growing up, I was made fun of all the time... I had this word directed towards me many time. I have been competing in Special Olympics for just a little over 16 years.

About Amber Gertsch :
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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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