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 4.5 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


August 24, 2015 | North America: Pennsylvania

Why I like Special Olympics

By John Judd

I like Special Olympics because it has helped me open up more and also has helped me find friends that I consider my family, just as like they are my real family.View Story I like Special Olympics because it has helped me open up more and also has helped me find friends that I consider my family, just as like they are my real family.

About John Judd :I'm an athlete and a friend and a brother
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August 17, 2015 | North America: North Carolina

My Special Olympics Life

By Bradley Rice

Hey, everybody, this is Brad Rice from Greensboro Guilford County in North Carolina. I got started in Special Olympics when I was 8 years old.View Story Hey, everybody, this is Brad Rice from Greensboro Guilford County in North Carolina. I got started in Special Olympics when I was 8 years old. The sports are really good for me because I like to get in shape and make myself healthier, but I love everybody, including the coaches and volunteers who make every athlete train hard to be the best. I did try my best but I never give up and I keep trying.

About Bradley Rice:I like to watch movies on my VCR and typing on my laptop but I work out at planet fitness and I am really working hard on my weight. I want to tell everybody I am becoming the local author working on my book it is called "Down syndrome A Bradley Rice story written by me and I am working at Harris teeter as a customer service bagger
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August 17, 2015 | North America: North Carolina

My 8th month anniversary August 2015

By Bradley Rice

I want to tell everybody about the grocery store where I work. This month is my anniversary as a customer service bagger at Harris-Teeter, and I have been recognized by my customer service manager.View Story I want to tell everybody about the grocery store where I work. This month is my anniversary as a customer service bagger at Harris-Teeter, and I have been recognized by my customer service manager. It is very exciting news that I want tell everyone. This year I won silver and bronze medals also a ribbon in state games, and I feel really proud of myself because I believe in myself as an athlete.

About Bradley Rice:I work at Harris Teeter as a bagger and I am also becoming a local writer thinking of myself author writing a book about myself and also getting ready for soccer to help my soccer team to win like we did before.
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August 14, 2015 | North America: Wyoming

Do Not Use The R-Word

By David Ray

I Don't Want People To Use The R-WordView Story I Don't Want People To Use The R-Word

About David Ray:I Have Been Involed In Special Olympics In 10 Years
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August 11, 2015 | North America: Tennessee

My comeback season

By Brent Anderson

Hello my name is Brent Anderson from Knoxville,Tennessee. I'm 32 years old. Spring 2004,I was forced to quit Special Olympics for a decade and had a 10 1/2 year layoff from competing in the tournament circuits as an athlete.View Story Hello my name is Brent Anderson from Knoxville,Tennessee. I'm 32 years old. Spring 2004,I was forced to quit Special Olympics for a decade and had a 10 1/2 year layoff from competing in the tournament circuits as an athlete. I was completely out of shape. In 2005, I started lifting weights everyday and become a bodybuilder. September 2012, I ran my first 5k and became a runner and earning trophies days after my 30th birthday. in November 2014, I was making a comeback to compete in Special Olympics events as an well-promising athlete. On May 16, 2015, I took home 3 gold medals in track & field (100 meter dash, standing long jump, 50 meter dash) at Special Olympics Tennessee Summer Games in Nashville, Tennessee. In my most-promising future, I'll be continuing to compete in Special Olympics events (basketball, volleyball, flag football, track & field and soccer) and earning more trophies to deserve myself a second chance and showing the world to be the best of the best.

About Brent Anderson :I'm a 5k runner for the Knoxville Track Club. I'm also a dishwasher for Smokey's Sports Grill at Brenda Lawson Athletic Center (University of Tennessee-Knoxville). And I'm a UT football,basketball and Lady Vols sports fan. GO VOLS!!! 🏈🏈🏈
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August 10, 2015 | North America: Mississippi

I LOVE SPECIAL OLYMPICS

By danielarata

I like to meet new people and go on trips in Mississippi with Special Olympics. It is fun bowling and flag football and softball too.View Story I like to meet new people and go on trips in Mississippi with Special Olympics. It is fun bowling and flag football and softball too.

About danielarata:I go to church and I love to do Special Olympics
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July 22, 2015 | North America: Florida

Info about me

By Omar Brihoum

My family and close friends are very proud of me with my life playing golf. I played for high school and did great in it. When I play for Special Olympics I always win.View Story My name is Omar Brihoum. I'm a golfer. I've been doing it since March 2007 or age 11. I have autism and ADHD. I'm currently 19 years old and high school graduated. I just love my sport or my game of golf. My P.E coach in Elementary school was the first person to introduce to golf at the age of 11. I've won 2 states and 2 district championships for special Olympics. My family and close friends are very proud of me with my life playing golf. I played for high school and did great in it. My dream is to become a HVAC Technician and own my own company. When I play for Special Olympics I always beat everyone and win. My father is an electrical engineer and investor and my mother doesn't usually work but she has 2 masters degree in accounting and business. I graduated high school at Oak Ridge. I had a a lot of problems in my life being autistic it was very rough for me. Thank God to my parents, doctors and friends they have recovered me a lot.

About Omar Brihoum:I want to be published.
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July 21, 2015 | North America: New Jersey

Its about equality

By skylar hildebrant

i have ADHD and I know it may not be as big of a disability as others but after helping with kids with disabilities and being able to help them it just became so near and dear to my heart.View Story i have ADHD and I know it may not be as big of a disability as others but after helping with kids with disabilities and being able to help them it just became so near and dear to my heart that I began to tell people please do not use that word around me. I feel the once-okay word turned into a derogatory hurtful word that shouldn't be used. Special, handicapped, disabled, or rather nothing at all needs to be used because in the end we are all human.

About skylar hildebrant:Growing up I was always around SCARC people and always helped them so to be so close with them and now having ADHD I feel so close to them and will do anything to help and give back to them and all.
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July 18, 2015 | SOI: Region North America

People should not be hurt

By Veronica Schenck

Please don't call with disabilities names beginning with the R word. It is very hurtful to a lot of people with disabilities.View Story Please don't call with disabilities names beginning with the R word. It is very hurtful to a lot of people with disabilities. They may cry, and they may not know what to say or what to do. They may act out on that person who called them that word. So please don't call people who have disabilities the R word. Please pledge to help stop the R word. Thank you very much.

About Veronica Schenck:I do swimming with Trueadu tigers Special Olympics and sometimes I do shot put and sometimes I do the 200 meter walk. And we have pizza in our dorm.
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June 29, 2015 | North America: Pennsylvania

My life in special olympics

By Jennifer Petersen

I was a teenager when I first started Special Olympics and the state that I started in was Virginia. I always loved doing Special Olympics because I love doing sports with my friends and the coaches are like my family.View Story I was a teenager when I first started Special Olympics and the state that I started in was Virginia. I always loved doing Special Olympics because I love doing sports with my friends and the coaches are like my family. I loved it very much but I had to stop cause I moved, then started back up again for a year in New York. I stopped and moved to Pennsylvania, then started up again with the Special Olympics program at school then started up with Monroe County. I am still with the program since we started it in 1998.

About Jennifer Petersen:I always loved doing Special Olympics ever since I was a teenager cause I love doing sports with my friends and the coaches are like my family
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