Our team has been anxiously awaiting the commencement of the Special Olympics World Games this weekend. In the case that you missed our announcement earlier this month, We-Care.com’s two sponsored athletes, Natalia Marquez and Chavez Lamy, will compete in the female athletics and the male aquatic games on Saturday morning. We wish them the best of luck!

As spectators, we love supporting our athletes while they’re in the arena, but has it ever occurred to you how they got there? One doesn’t just wake up and decide “Hey, I’m going to go compete at the Olympics today. Wish me luck!” There’s a lot of preparation and commitment that goes into achieving such a goal. This was the prompt that sparked our inquiry, how does an athlete qualify for the Special Olympics? We consulted Google and the Special Olympics for more information and this is what we found.

Before jumping right into the requirements, it’s important to note what the Special Olympics represent. The Special Olympics (not to be confused with the Paralympics which is committed to athletes living with a range of physical disabilities) devotes its efforts to fostering the growing community of athletes living with intellectual disabilities through competitive sport. Every two years, the Special Olympics World Games bring together an all-star roster of incredible athletes from around the globe to compete in Olympic-type sports.

The requirements for eligible competitors are:

  • Participants must be 8 years old or older
  • Participants have been identified by an agency or professional as having intellectual disabilities, cognitive delays as measured by formal assessment, or significant learning/ vocational problems dues to cognitive delay
  • Participants have been obtained medical clearance

You can read more about the required release forms here.

While these athletes are faced with an extra set of challenges, they are just as, if not more, capable than both you and I. Take Kenny Jones for example. He won his first gold medal at the 1999 World Games where he competed in the marathon, which he finished in 3 hours and 51 minutes. And a minor detail, it was 101 degrees!

The games are not intended to be a pity party for those with intellectual disabilities, but rather a celebration of the athletes’ physical achievements.

If you are interested in supporting an organization that embraces diversity and fights to create a more inclusive society through small, everyday actions, you can choose to make the Special Olympics your cause today. You can also contribute on our sponsor page here.

A Boston native turned New Yorker, Tyler joined We-Care.com in July 2014. With a public relations degree from Quinnipiac University, he channels most of his energy into combing through what’s trending on social media and nurturing our partnerships with nonprofits. Whatever energy he has left at the end of the day is reserved time for fitness, family, and friends.