Over the summer, it seemed that the 2016 Olympics were all anyone was talking about. Turn on any news or sports station and there were the games, being broadcasted live. With all of the hype surrounding the Olympics, it’s easy to forget about the Special Olympics, in which children and adults with intellectual disabilities are able to train and compete in Olympic-style sports.
The Special Olympics community reaches all across the globe. According to specialolympics.org, there are over 4.7 million athletes currently involved and one million coaches. The ever-growing organization currently has bases in 169 different countries. The best athletes from each country make it to the national teams to compete on a global stage every two years, switching between summer and winter games, much like the traditional Olympics.
The athletes train all season and have meets or games to prepare to compete at State Games, which for Ohio, takes place at Ohio State University, according to senior Emily Davis, who is an active volunteer and coach.
“It should really be paid more attention to because this is an organization that helps kids feel special in an amazing way,” said junior Gwynnie Whybrew, who began coaching the gymnastics team in the spring of this year.
During the State Games, athletes from every county get together for a week of games and activities on the OSU campus, and at the end of it all, they get to partake in a dance that is thrown for them.
Special Olympics athlete Olivia Reimer has been running on the track team for five years.
“Olivia likes competing because she feels so great when she accomplishes something. Being a part of the Special Olympics makes her feel like she fits in. It makes her feel special, but in the right way,” said her mother, Susan Reimer.
It’s not just the athletes and their families who love the opportunity that the Special Olympics bring, the volunteers also love it.
“I have been coaching for four years now and I love it!” said Davis.
“Everyone a part of Special Olympics gets the chance to express themselves in a safe environment, and I personally think that’s a special thing,” said Whybrew.