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


October 27, 2014 | North America: Illinois

My story of how I got involved in Special Olympics as an athlete and a volunteer

By Joseph Krivosik

Here is a picture of me doing floor hockey individual skills at UIC in Chicago IL.

Ever since I started competing for Special Olympics Illinois I made many new friends and also connected with others with intellectual disabilities.View Story Hello My name is Joseph George Krivosik and i'm currently an athlete and also a volunteer for Special Olympics. I didn't learn about Special Olympics until I was a freshmen at Hoffman Estates High School in Hoffman Estates, IL. I competed in the following sports with Special Olympics: Athletics, Bowling (currently an athlete for Ten Pin Bowlers run by Elizabeth Lynch), Basketball, Floor Hockey, Snowshoeing and Volleyball. I'm currently a volunteer for Special Olympics in school district 54 in Schaumburg, IL. Ever since I started competing for Special Olympics Illinois I made many new friends and also connected with others with intellectual disabilities. I also have a medical condition called Hemophilia which is a bleeding disorder and my Hemophilia hasn't held me back. Here is a picture of me doing floor hockey individual skills at UIC in Chicago IL.

About Joseph Krivosik:i'm an athlete and also a volunteer for Special Olympics.
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October 27, 2014 | Asia Pacific: Pakistan

Believing In My Dreams

By Haseeb Abbasi

At National Games 2014 Karachi

Special Olympics Pakistan has broken the most difficult barrier of my life, my voice. Being autistic, verbal language was tough. My confidence to speak has improved tremendously since day one.View Story Hello, my name is Muhammad Haseeb Abbasi.I am sixteen years of age. I’m a proud Special Olympics Pakistan athlete. I recently went to Karachi to participate in Special Olympics Pakistan National Games 2014-2015. I took part in 10 km cycling competition and won a silver medal. To me winning or losing means you are still at the TOP, which is what Special Olympics, is all about. There is nothing to lose here. Special Olympics Pakistan has broken the most difficult barrier of my life was my voice. Being autistic, verbal language was tough. It was difficult for me to speak up for myself. My confidence to speak has improved tremendously since day one when my Coach Arshad Javaid believed in me and provided me with an opportunity on the stage with a microphone to introduce myself with fellow athletes of Special Olympics Pakistan. The biggest reward of my life from Special Olympics is that they have given me voice and I cannot imagine my life without Special Olympics Pakistan.

About Haseeb Abbasi:my story is above attached
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October 27, 2014 | North America: New York

one word-OVERCOME

By lillian chaparro

We can conquer all obstacles and not let challenges get the best of us on the issues we face every day of our lives. Special Olympics is the answer.View Story We can conquer all obstacles and not let challenges get the best of us on the issues we face every day of our lives. Especially on goals we want to reach.We have hopes and dreams on what we want to happen and come true! Special Olympics is the answer and helps our dreams come true and makes people we're close with very proud! I'm glad to be part of it. Thanks.

About lillian chaparro:I'm a very friendly person I like to get along with people and I have a loving family.
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October 16, 2014 | North America: Illinois

Getting Hooked On Special Olympics

By Eric Bauman

My Name is Eric Baumann, I have been doing Special Olympics since about 5th grade or 8 years old, and live the skills through Special Olympics.View Story My Name is Eric Baumann, I have been doing Special Olympics since about 5th grade or 8 years old, I started to do one sport, and that was Athletics (Track and Field). After That, I became a Global Messenger in Illinois in 2000. Then in 2003 I went to Ireland to get a silver medal in the standing long jump and ever since then, i went one to volunteer locally, statewide and even in other states like Missouri, and Nebraska for the 2010 national games in Nebraska, while that was going on, in 2008 I got to served on The Board Of Directors in Illinois. And just Got Hooked On Special Olympics, and live the skills through Special Olympics, and work,and where I live on my own in an apartment

About Eric Bauman :I am athlete for nearly 20 years 2008-2011 Special Olympics Illinois Board Of Directors Member I do 6 sports like, Track n field, Bocce, Basketball, Snowshoeing, Bowling and Softball Been A Global Messenger for Illinois since 2000
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October 14, 2014 | North America: Maryland

Adam Hays, the Cyclist

By Adam Hays

Adam Hays overcomes hurdles on Cyclocross event and in life with determination.

Special Olympics athlete Adam Hays joined his brother's cyclocross team, where his team viewed him as a cyclist, not as someone with a disability. "I now have a new community of friends that see me for who I am, not my label," Adam said.View Story Social interaction is very important. Especially to those with intellectual disabilities. For many years people with intellectual disabilities were treated with little respect and isolated. Then Eunice Kennedy Shriver came along and began Special Olympics and gave athletes a place to shine and feel respected in the community! This is where I met new friends and learned to cycle. I have been a Special Olympics Maryland athlete for 19 years and I ride 1,200 miles a year around my home town. My younger brother, Kevin, races Cyclocross, a crazy sport that involves a lot of all-terrain riding. One night he asked me if I would ever try Cyclocross. I said yes. He asked his coach if I could compete in a race. I not only competed in a race last weekend but was presented with a jersey kit from his team! This made me excited AND accepted because his team viewed me as a cyclist, not as someone with a disability. I now have a new community of friends that see me for who I am, not my label.

About Adam Hays:Work part time as Communication Assistant at Special Olympics Maryland. Athlete for over 19 years. Live in Frederick, MD
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October 10, 2014 | North America: New York

Looks don't matter

By lillian chaparro

It hurts my feelings when people stare at me and turn their backs because of the way I look and how I dress in public. To me its unacceptable and it hurts me badly.View Story It hurts my feelings when people stare at me and turn their backs because of the way I look and how I dress in public. To me its unacceptable and it hurts me badly. Looks do not matter, it's who you are inside especially from the heart. Jealousy is not the answer because I consider my fellow athletes and my volunteers my friends, because I care about all of them! my heart goes out to them. tThey are my friends for life!Thank you!

About lillian chaparro:I'm from new york I live in manhattan my whole life and have a loving family.
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October 09, 2014 | Asia Pacific: Pakistan

My experience as an Athlete Leader

By Jasmine Sharif Athlete Boardmember Pakistan

Me giving an PowerPoint presentation

I really enjoy being in the Athlete Leadership program. It gives me more confidence, I have made friends and I am able to speak more than before.View Story Hi my name is Jasmine Sharif. I have been involved in Special Olympics for 8 years as an athlete. In 2007, I became part of Athlete Leadership Program . In 2011 I went to Singapore for the athlete leadership conferences. In 2014 went to Malaysia for the Special Olympics Asia Pacific Input Council conferences and I was chosen as its co-chair person along with Ben Haack We had Health Ambassadors I really enjoy being in the Athlete Leadership program. It gives me more confidence, I have made friends and I am able to speak more than before. On the EKS Day, I also gave a PowerPoint presentation of Mrs. Eunice Kennedy Shriver's life and the history of Special Olympics. Thank you Special Olympics

About Jasmine Sharif Athlete Boardmember Pakistan:My name is Jasmine Sharif I am an athlete Board member and serve on the input council for Special Olympics in Asia Pacific.
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October 09, 2014 | North America: Utah

STOP the R-Word!

By Gabe Lefler

I am so excited to get to my last class, which is Peer Tutor. I work with a really smart and funny boy. He has the best handwriting I have ever seen; it's perfect. He always makes his name fit on the page even if there is no room left. I love being a Peer Tutor.View Story I am so excited to get to my last class, which is Peer Tutor. I work with a really smart and funny boy. He has the best handwriting I have ever seen; it's perfect. He always makes his name fit on the page even if there is no room left. I love being a Peer Tutor.

About Gabe Lefler:I am 13 Years old. I am peer tutor. I go to Timberline Middle School.
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October 07, 2014 | North America: New York

We Are Beautiful

By lillian chaparro

I just started Special Olympics about one month ago and I'm very pleased to be an athlete and be with other athletes that I'm friends with and I'm getting to know.View Story I just started Special Olympics about one month ago and I'm very pleased to be an athlete and be with other athletes that I'm friends with and I'm getting to know. I'm honored to have people cheering me on even when I'm having tough times and when things don't go well. I'm getting support from my fellow athletes and from the volunteers. I'm very happy to have acceptance and respect from this great organization.I'm very proud to be an athlete! Thank you!

About lillian chaparro:I'm from New York. I've been living in Manhattan my whole life and I have a loving family.
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October 07, 2014 | North America: Canada

People on My Paper Route

By Meghan O'Donovan

When I used to deliver papers for the Stratford Beacon Herald, people on my paper route used to call me names using the mean r -word.View Story My name is Meghan O'Donovan. I am a Special Olympics athlete from Stratford, Ontario in Canada. When I used to deliver papers for the Stratford Beacon Herald people on my paper route used call me names using the mean r -word and I ignored it and hopefully there will be a end to the mean r-word.

About Meghan O'Donovan:I been working with McDonald's for 13 years of cleaning here in Stratford, Ontario in Canada.I enjoyed my job.
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Special Olympics Blog

Sport and Tech Team Up for Good

Now, thanks to Microsoft, athletes, coaches and families will have rapid access to useful information about their scores, times, personal bests, fitness and health. Special Olympics can use this capability to dramatically improve the lives of people in our Movement.  read more »

Posted on 2014-10-27 by Janet

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