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


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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July 12, 2014 | North America: Oklahoma

Hard life till Special Olympics

By Joshu

I just didn't have anyone care about me, but when I get involved in Special Olympics, I made friends there who that didn't care about how I am, or what kind of disability I had. All they cared about was, would I be their friend, no matter what.View Story I just didn't have anyone care about me, but when I get involved in Special Olympics, I made friends there who that didn't care about how I am, or what kind of disability I had. All they cared about was, would I be their friend, no matter what.

About Joshu:I'm Joshua Smith. I'm from Tulsa Oklahoma. I'm going on 30 years old. My life was not perfect.
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July 12, 2014 | North America: Indiana

World Games 2003

By David Parks

My dad and I with Mrs. Eunice Kennedy Schiver June 2003

My dad was one of the athletes to represent team USA and I got to go with my grandma and uncle. I got to meet Eunice Kennedy Shiver.View Story My dad was one of the athletes to represent team USA and I got to go with my grandma and uncle. When we was coming out of a shoe store at mall in Dublin, Ireland and my dad and I got to meet Eunice Kendendy Shiver while we was there and it was really cool. I was really glad to meet her and thank her for starting Special Olympics!!!! She had a bunch of security around her too.

About David Parks:I started out in Special Olympics all my life because my parents played. I have been playing all kinds of sports. I have won athlete of the year twice for our county and for area 2 I have won it once. I really enjoy playing Special Olympics and I'm 19 years and doing Unified Volleyball now. I particatate in basketball, softball, track and field, unified volleyball, volleyball, and corn toss .
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July 10, 2014 | SOI: Region North America

A Remarkable Journey

By Martha Hill

World Summer Games in Shanghai, China 2007

In 2007, I was fortunate to have been selected as one of 12 athletes from around the world to serve as an International Global Messenger, a spokesperson and representative for my fellow athletes.View Story In 2007, I was fortunate to have been selected as one of 12 athletes from around the world to serve as an International Global Messenger, a spokesperson and representative for my fellow athletes. It was a remarkable journey during which I traveled and spent time with other athletes, world leaders and so many others. It was during a trip to Shanghai for the Special Olympics World Summer Games, that I was privileged to meet Eunice Kennedy Shriver herself, an honor I will never forget. My biggest dream came true that day. I'm so thankful to my travel partner, Jeanne Hrovat from SOWI for capturing this moment.

About Martha Hill:My name is Martha Hill, and I have been a Special Olympics Athlete for 20 years. I have had the privilege to travel to many places and to advocate and represent my fellow athletes in a number of capacities at state, national and even international levels. I have competed in swimming, basketball, bocce and golf over the years. Most recently I've been training as a distance runner and have completed my first 5k, ran with our state Law Enforcement Torch Run for nearly seven miles and look forward to my next 5K this July.
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June 30, 2014 | North America: Ohio

People Calling Me The R-word

By JOSH WATSON RESPCT

When I was in school people used to make fun of me. I've been called the r word and four eyes. It was not easy in school.View Story When I was in school people used to make fun of me. I've been called the r word and four eyes. It was not easy in school. The other students used to mess with me and pick me up, talk about me behind my back. People can be so mean. It really makes mad when I hear the r word. It's not very nice or respctful. People need to stop saying the r word to people with special needs because they don't like it at all. So i am asking very nicely, please stop saying the r word. In fact time for everyone to stop saying the r word. It's disrespctful and not very cool or respectful. I wish that the r word was never said again. In fact it's getting really really anoying. It's driving me really crazy. In fact, nobody likes it at all. The r word should be banned in schools, in fact it should be against the law to say the r word. I don't care if we have freedom of speech, the r word should never be said anywere.

About JOSH WATSON RESPCT :Because I want to spread the new R-word, the new R-word is respect, and I have special needs. I’ve heard the r word so many times that I am really sick of the r word. It’s getting really annoying.
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June 30, 2014 | Asia Pacific: Pakistan

The Lady Who Has Inspired Me a Lot

By jasmine Sharif

Hi, my name is Jasmine Sharif. I am a Special Olympics athlete. There is a lady who is bright and wise, always there throughout hard days and encourages all us athletes to do a lot.View Story Hi, my name is Jasmine Sharif. I am a Special Olympics athlete. There is a lady who is bright and wise, always there throughout hard days and encourages all us athletes to do a lot. Whenever I need her, she's always there, I love you, Tina Aunty. Tina Azim is the Family Support Network coordinator for Special Olympics Pakistan. I love her the most. Thank you Tina Aunty for everything of what you are and have done for me.

About jasmine Sharif:Hi, my name is Jasmine Sharif. I am a Special Olympics Pakistan athlete Board Member.
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June 27, 2014 | North America: Louisiana

Flag Football

By Camrin

I started football when I was a kid and now I made it to the USA Games in New Jersey and that was fun. Never give up on your team. Always be a part of teamwork. You can make it.View Story I started football when I was a kid and now I made it to the USA Games in New Jersey and that was fun. Never give up on your team. Always be a part of teamwork. You can make it.

About Camrin:Hi my name is camrin sandoz I'm form Louisiana new Iberia
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June 19, 2014 | North America: Tennessee

Life Changing

By riley moore

At my school we had an assembly and it was about the r word. I thought this was going to be dumb. But when I found out all about the word and what it meant and how it affected people, it made me open my eyes.View Story At my school we had an assembly and it was about the r word. I thought this was going to be dumb. But when I found out all about the word and what it meant and how it affected people, it made me open my eyes to see the world in a whole different place. Now I haven't said the word in 3 months and I tell people not to say it and tell them not to say it any more. I hope that people will end the word.

About riley moore:i am a volleyball player and i get bullied. well, i used to. i help people with bullying. i have started a project, #selfietoendbullying, to pledge to end it. post your selfie with the hashtag
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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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