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 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


May 12, 2015 | North America: Florida

This is my story by Nataly H

By Nataly H

I got involved in Special Olympics Florida thanks to two friends of mine. I am a Special Olympics athlete for Seminole County. I got involved in Special Olympics in the year 2009 and I am still part of Special Olympics Seminole County.View Story My story is not too long so here goes: I got involved in Special Olympics Florida thanks to two friends of mine. I am a Special Olympics athlete for Seminole County. I got involved in Special Olympics in the year 2009 and I am still part of Special Olympics Seminole County. I used to be an assistant coach for volleyball and basketball for 5 years. I have competed in Special Olympics bowling and swimming, and this year I'm hoping to try out for Flag-football. I have made a lot of friends thanks to this program and coached many athletes who have become my friends and had many wonderful coaches and always thank our many volunteers for being there to help. My goal is simple, to inspire others with cerebral palsy to go out and be fit and active and to be brave in the attempt.

About Nataly H:I have CP and enjoy playing sports and making new friends along the way. I love what Special Olympics has done for me for the many years I have been doing it. Thanks for everything that you do and God bless this program. I love it so much!
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May 12, 2015 | North America: Washington

I Love Special Olympics

By robert bujosa

I was 14 when I joined Special Olympics! It's 2015 and I'm still doing Special Olympics. I love the people. They are super nice and fun loving!View Story Back in grade school to junior high, I didn't have Special Olympics until I got into high school. That was back in 2000! I was 14 when I joined Special Olympics! It's 2015 and I'm still doing Special Olympics. I love the people. They are super nice and fun loving! In high school I played a lot of sports though the school the people in high school are different than Special Olympics! Until i'm too old too to do stuff I will always be in Special Olympics!

About robert bujosa:I'm 30 years old I was born with a clubfoot had a lot of surgeries over the years! I'm fun loving!
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May 12, 2015 | North America: New York

Mom and me

By lillian chaparro

As an athlete of Special Olympics I've learned that moms everywhere are a blessing to all of us. They're role models and make sacrifices for us every day.View Story My mom is the greatest parent. I can only imagine how it must feel to have someone to look up to every day. As an athlete of Special Olympics I've learned that moms everywhere are a blessing to all of us. They're role models and make sacrifices for us every day. Especially moms that are involved with the athletes that inspire us and root for us. We're so proud of them. They're an inspiration to all of us.

About lillian chaparro:I'm a fan of Special Olympics.
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April 27, 2015 | North America: West Virginia

end the r- word

By Amanda Hawkins

when I hear someone saying the r word I tell them what I they were called a bad name how would you feel.View Story when I hear someone saying the r word I tell them what I they were called a bad name how would you feel.

About Amanda Hawkins:I have a learning disability and I have heard this word too many times and no one spoke up to tell them that word hurts.
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April 27, 2015 | North America: Alabama

Unified bowling Nationals

By Jeanne Case

Special Olympics in Indian Creek North Carolina

I've been praying for years to go to El Paso for the Unified Sports Bowling National Competition. That dream became a reality on March 3. I flew to El Paso, Texas, to attend the Unified Bowling Nationals. It was a trip I will never forget.View Story I've been praying for years to go to El Paso for the Unified Sports Bowling National Competition. That dream became a reality on March 3. I flew to El Paso, Texas, to attend the Unified Bowling Nationals. It was a trip I will never forget. Teams came From Alabama, Texas, Kentucky, Ohio and Arizona. I traded pins. Hopefully I will travel to future national competitions in Reno, Las Vegas or New York. I ice skate, too. Our ice skate team traveled to North Carolina and Georgia. I ice skated in Huntsville, Alabama, before I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer.

About Jeanne Case:I live in Harvest Alabama I ice skate and do unified bowling. I love to read Science Fiction books I have made lots of Friends also I'm a big fan of Star Wars and support Special Olympics
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April 27, 2015 | North America: New York

I Am Determined to Swim

By GERI RICE

I am getting ready for the regional tournament on Saturday for swimming, and I know if I put my mind to it, I can do what I want to do. I compete in the water here in Rochester, NY, and the swimming tournament is this Saturday. It's also where I live, OK.View Story I am getting ready for the regional tournament on Saturday for swimming, and I know if I put my mind to it, I can do what I want to do. I compete in the water here in Rochester, NY, and the swimming tournament is this Saturday. It's also where I live, OK. I am nervous and I have some great coaches who have been helping me out in the water.

About GERI RICE:I am an athlete in Rochester, NY, and I am a Special Olympics swimmer here, too.
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April 21, 2015 | North America: New York

Perseverance is the key to your future.

By Jean Daly

I remember I use to be a peer mediator who helps children and your classmates who are sad, crying or not being their usual. So one day this girl was crying and she said she was getting bullied.View Story I remember I use to be a peer mediator who helps children and your classmates who are sad, crying or not being their usual. So one day this girl was crying and she said she was getting bullied. Then she was crying hysterically. I grabbed napkins and wiped her face. She said no one likes her and she doesn't think she is special to be on this world. She said she wanted to kill herself. Then i said you are special. Your mom and dad made you because you are special. You have a mission on earth to accomplish and that is making your parents proud and living your life. As i continued i also said not everyone is perfect but you need to have perseverance. And people called her names such as retarded and everything thing else. I told it is not what people see you physically they need to know your inside who you really are. As i continued a tear fell from my eyes, saying you are a beautiful young woman and ignore what people say because you are special and God created for this reason.

About Jean Daly:Well i am jean daly and i am a female 11 yrs of age in 7th grade at cunningham IS234 and i like sports like i am athletic. I am a fun person ilke to make jokes because i like to smiles on people face.
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April 21, 2015 | North America: Iowa

i thought the letter r stood for racism.

By chelsea

yay

i realize it does not.. but i support ridding of both r words.View Story i realize it does not.. but i support ridding of both r words.

About chelsea:I love all people.
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April 15, 2015 | North America: Northern California

Jose Ayala goes to 2015 Special Olymipcs World Games from the Napa Valley California

By Jose Ayala / wit a little help from his teacher Loretta....

I started participating in Special Olympics when I attended Napa High School. I am going to the post secondary program Transition 3 at NVUSD. I have been chosen to go to the World Games in LA this summer.View Story I started participating in Special Olympics when I attended Napa High School. I am going to the post secondary program Transition 3 at NVUSD. I have been chosen to go to the World Games in LA this summer. I will be competing on the Track Team. I will be on a relay team, the 100 dash, and maybe the 200 dash. Not sure... I will be carrying the Olympic Torch throughout the Napa Valley on July 23. I will start in Calistoga with the law enformcement agencies representing the The World Famous Napa Valley. I am so proud to be the representative of our local community. I want to thank my coach Gary McGuire for believing in me. I am a true athelete and am so excited to attend this special event. Hope to see you all there this coming summer, Jose Ayala

About Jose Ayala / wit a little help from his teacher Loretta....:I just want to thank-you for letting me participate in the Special Olympics, and I am training 6 days a week with my coach Gray McGuire.
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April 01, 2015 | North America: Southern California

im a high function young adult with special needs

By Nicole

Hi my name is Nicole and I am a swimmer with Special Olympics and I think that people should stop saying the R word in their vocabulary. It hurts the feelings of people with disabilities.View Story Hi my name is Nicole and I am a swimmer with Special Olympics and I think that people should stop saying the R word in their vocabulary. It hurts the feelings of people with disabilities. I think the R word is very disrespectful and it puts children with special needs down and people make fun of us and it's not our fault that we're slower than other people and people who do not have special needs should stick up for us. I think children with special needs are a gift from God and He loves all people.

About Nicole :I said it all in my story
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