Every two years, Special Olympics athletes come together to compete at the Special Olympics World Games. This summer, over 6,500 athletes from 165 countries will descend upon Los Angeles to show the true meaning of courage, joy and determination. Special Olympics Florida is proud to have 16 athletes represent the USA at this competition – below are their stories.
Focused is an understatement when describing Special Olympics USA’s Unified Soccer team’s mentality before their big game against the Czech Republic on Thursday. Representing the USA, the Florida team played with extreme intensity as they hustled after the ball. Fans described it as an exhilarating game – the score was tied at zero until the second half when the Czech Republic scored, putting them in the lead. Soon after, Haley made an amazing goal for the USA that caused the crowd to roar with excitement. Kyle and Andrew also made shots at the goal that had the fans on their feet. However, the Czech Republic was able to come back with another goal, ultimately claiming the victory over the team from Special Olympics USA. All athletes played with great concentration and sportsmanship, making it a game to be proud of. Today’s results mean that Special Olympics USA will play China in their chance to take home a bronze medal.
On Thursday, hundreds of fans crowded Long Beach as Special Olympics USA athlete Andy Miyares readied himself for his next competition – the 1500m open-water swim. As he emerged from the water he was greeted with cheers on his final run to the finish line where friends and family celebrated him with high-fives and hugs. Andy embraced his mom and brother, who had traveled across the country from Miami, Florida to watch him compete. When his score was announced, the crowd learned he swam the one mile course in 28 minutes and 35 seconds, shaving almost 6 minutes off his original practice time. “I was trying to pass these guys from Puerto Rico,” said Andy. “Outside of the water they are my friends, but inside the water they are my competition.” The competition was tough, but Andy had trained for months and finished in second place, receiving a sliver medal. On the beach, he was the center of media attention and smiled as he posed for pictures to celebrate his inspiring win with the world.
Equestrian athlete Christina Cooney rode in dressage on Thursday, winning a bronze medal for Special Olympics USA. Christina’s coach, Julie Coon, said, “She had a stellar warm up, she was calm and relaxed.” Christina was nervous at the beginning of her performance but towards the middle loosened up and rode very confidently as she competed against athletes from Italy, Sweeden, Belgium and Guatemala. “She was happy with her ride and placement” said her coach. As she received her medal friends and family who traveled from her home in Palm Beach cheered as Christina triumphantly put both hands in the air in celebration of her second medal of the week. Riding her horse Stormy, Christina continues to inspire the world with her talent and determination.