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.
The Special Olympics USA Unified Soccer team from Florida huddled for their pregame chant, preparing to meet the team from China in their chance to earn the bronze medal. With a final chant, they took the field. The stands were packed and the excitement palpable throughout the duration of the game. The crowd never sat down cheering on both teams with tireless enthusiasm. It was a close game, and Special Olympics USA triumphed 4-2 over China but teamwork was the theme of the game. “I think we all did best at hustling after the ball,” said Sammy. The first goal was scored by Rufus and the next by Haley. The crowd went wild after each goal and the team embraced, all extremely proud of each other. “It was fun playing with my team, they’re my best friends,” said Rufus. After the win they ran with the American Flag flowing behind them and posed for picture after picture. “I love this,” said Hassan. “I never want it to end.”
After a day off, Florida athlete Alex Bautista bowled his final competition at the Special Olympics World Games on Friday. With an entire section of the crowd cheering him on, including his best friend and unified bowling partner Aaron, Alex started out strong and feeling good about his frames. “Over all I think he knew he did much better. He rolled a lot of good balls right in the pocket. He tried his best and it was a great experience,” said Alex’s mom. It was a tough competition but Alex was happy with how he bowled, finishing 6th in his division at his final competition. With a gold medal already around his neck from earlier the week, everyone agreed it was an experience of a lifetime.
Florida athlete Christina competed in her third and final equestrian competition of the week – working trails. With more than 25 years of experience riding, it was no surprise that she controlled her horse excellently, rounding turns and obstacles tightly and neatly. She seemed very comfortable in the course and on her horse Stormy, making the very difficult sport look easy. “She got off of the horse and knew she did her best and that’s all you can ask for” said her coach. She finished with a score of 126, earning her a 4th place finish. Just like when she won her earlier bronze and silver medals, Christina received her award with immense joy and overwhelming cheers from the stands. “The smile on her face said it all,” said her coach. Christina put on an amazing showing at the Special Olympics World Games, finishing in the top 4 in all her events, demonstrating true courage and confidence every step of the way.