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


September 12, 2014 | North America: Virginia

my life

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.
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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 met
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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 rdease@specialolympics.org. For more information about the Athlete Health Corner, please visit http://www.specialolympics.org/Stories/General/Help_Me_Share_the_Athlete_Health_Corner.aspx.
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September 04, 2014 | Europe Eurasia: Ireland

Special Olympics Ireland Games Limerick 2014

By Chloe MacMullan

Our team

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!
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August 08, 2014 | North America: Michigan

The R word is out!

By Hannah

My name is Hannah. I have mild Asperger's and very mild dyscalculia, and the R word is a no-no word. The R word is a medical term to describe someone who is an invalid, but the R word CANNOT be used as a joke.View Story My name is Hannah. I have mild Asperger's and very mild dyscalculia, and the R word is a no-no word. The R word is a medical term to describe someone who is an invalid, but the R word CANNOT be used as a joke.

About Hannah :I have mild Asperger's and very mild dyscalculia, which are medical terms saying that I have trouble with math AND that I stink at expressing myself. But I do skating at Suburban Ice.
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July 29, 2014 | North America: Texas

My life inside Special Olympics

By Jabbar Hasan

"I remember the days back then when I wouldn't be able to learn. I remember the days when I wouldn't be able to graduate from High School." That was one of the best quotes from Loretta Claiborne.View Story "I remember the days back then when I wouldn't be able to learn. I remember the days when I wouldn't be able to graduate from High School." That was one of the best quotes from Loretta Claiborne. That was the one video I watched Loretta speak to the Florida athletes everyday on Youtube. Before I became a Special Olympics athlete in Texas, I tried out for my middle school basketball team in the Aldine district. That did not work so well, but I became the manager of the team. Also, my mother passed away in 2006. In 2007, I started my high school life in Eisenhower High School. During one day in P.E. class, I picked up a basketball and started shooting baskets. So, that gave me an idea. "Why don't you give it a shot? You can show your talents," My voice in my head said. So my teacher gave me a form to take home to my dad to fill it out and return it the next day. So, here I am in 2014, in my 8th year as an athlete in Houston, Texas, my goal is to be just like Loretta, to be the athlete.

About Jabbar Hasan:I am a basketball-avid fan who knows about the NBA. I play basketball, softball , track and field and bowling. My goal is to make it to the National games and World games for basketball and bowling. My favorite person when I was growing up was Loretta Claiborne. She loves running. I do too.
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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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