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!
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
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.
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 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!View less ▲
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 BocceView less ▲
September 12, 2014 | North America: Virginia
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.View less ▲
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 metView less ▲
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 email@example.com. For more information about the Athlete Health Corner, please visit http://www.specialolympics.org/Stories/General/Help_Me_Share_the_Athlete_Health_Corner.aspx. View less ▲
September 04, 2014 | Europe Eurasia: Ireland
Special Olympics Ireland Games Limerick 2014
By Chloe MacMullan
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. View less ▲
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.View less ▲
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.View less ▲
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.View less ▲
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!View less ▲
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