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 4.5 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
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.
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
September 15, 2015 | Asia Pacific: Pakistan
How Athlete Leadership has changed my life
By Jasmine Sharif
Hi my name is Jasmine Sharifi, and my life has changed a lot since joining the Special Olympics Athlete Leadership program. I became stronger, made a lot of friends, and most of all I became more confident.View Story ▼Hi my name is Jasmine Sharifi, and my life has changed a lot since joining the Special Olympics Athlete Leadership program. I became stronger, made a lot of friends, and most of all I became more confident.
Last year, I and Ben Haack got selected as the co-chairs of Asia Pacific Athlete Input Council.
I am really happy that I got a chance to represent the entire Asia Pacific region.
Besides this I also come to the office and train new athletes in speeches and on personal hygiene. I am also a member of the Health Advocate program and will go to school to train students in personal hygiene.
About Jasmine Sharif:My name is Jasmine Sharif,I am from SO Pakistan,
I Love Special Olympics
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September 15, 2015 | North America: New York
Repeat these words:SHOW RESPECT!!!!!!!!
By LILLIAN CHAPARRO
I have autism. I repeat myself a lot and I don't look at people when I'm upset and not talk to them. I get upset when people use the r-word.View Story ▼I have autism. I repeat myself a lot and I don't look at people when I'm upset and not talk to them. I get upset when people use the r-word more often and I would feel hurt and it makes me feel uncomfortable. Instead of using the r-word so much they should repeat these words:SHOW SOME RESPECT!!!!
About LILLIAN CHAPARRO:I'm a friendly person and care about people.View less ▲
August 31, 2015 | North America: Florida
A New Beginning A New LIFE
By Stephanie Cooper
I have just moved to Florida from Philadelphia. When I arrived in Florida I had nothing, only a bag with some clothes and my pocketbook. I felt my life stunk. I looked into Special Olympics and I saw their bowling team.View Story ▼ I have just moved to Florida from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. When I arrived in Florida I had nothing, only a bag with some clothes and my pocketbook. I felt my life stunk. I looked into Special Olympics and I saw their bowling team. I have played with Special Olympics before. I did volleyball, basketball, track and field, and currently bowling. Every time I competed in Philadelphia Special Olympics, they were there with kindness and making sure that I felt like a great athlete. I was able to make the Volusia County Bowling team. When I arrived for the first time, I was welcomed with the same kindness that I received in Philadelphia. My aunt Linda Sanders and my good friend Renny Roker are always there to support me and the other athletes. Between Special Olympics, family, and the new friends I have just made, my new life, my new beginning will be a fantastic new adventure. The best part of my new life is that there is NO ICE OR SNOW.
About Stephanie Cooper :I am a Disney fan. I currently live in Flagler Beach with my aunt Linda Sanders and my good friend Renny Roker. I'm still trying to experience new things that Florida has to offer. I just have to get use to them. I have only been here a month but the best part is I do not have to worry about ice or snow.View less ▲
August 31, 2015 | North America: Colorado
By Nathan Beach
My last Halloween costume. A mad scientist. Not a stretch for me.
My name is Nathan Beach. The Awesome Alien Autistic on Youtube. Now 41 I have always lived with Asperger's Syndrome and a diagnosed learning problem. Having heard the r-word a great deal growing up this website inspired me to make a Youtube video about it.View Story ▼My name is Nathan Beach. The Awesome Alien Autistic on Youtube. Now 41 I have always lived with Asperger's Syndrome and a diagnosed learning problem. Having heard the r-word a great deal growing up this website inspired me to make a Youtube video about it. I recently went to a Special Olympics event and bought a cool looking pin- an R with a line through it. I read about it and decided to visit this website. I'm glad to see that some people really take this seriously!
About Nathan Beach:I'm 41 now and have diagnosed Asperger's Syndrome and a learning problem. Joined the Special Olympics as a volunteer in 2007 and an athlete in 2008. I live in Pagosa Springs, Colorado.View less ▲
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 View less ▲
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 View less ▲
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. View less ▲
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 YearsView less ▲
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!!! 🏈🏈🏈View less ▲
August 10, 2015 | North America: Mississippi
I LOVE SPECIAL OLYMPICS
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 View less ▲