This summer, 95 athletes representing the United States will compete in 14 sports at the Special Olympics World Games in Berlin.
They will join more than 7,000 Special Olympics athletes from more than 190 countries.
The games, from June 17 to 25, are the world’s largest humanitarian sports event of the year. They take place every two years, alternating between summer and winter sports.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver, an American philanthropist, founded the games in 1968 to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in Olympic-style sports for adults and children with intellectual disabilities.
Meet some of the American athletes competing this year in Berlin.
Grace Anne Braxton
A two-time U.S. Disabled Golf Association women’s champion, Braxton was inducted into the Virginia Golf Hall of Fame in 2022. From Fredericksburg, Virginia, she has been part of Special Olympics for 30 years as a competitor in Alpine skiing, athletics, basketball, floor hockey, golf, speed skating, swimming and volleyball.
The swimmer from Pembroke Pines, Florida, scored a silver medal in the 2019 Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi in the 1,500-meter open water swimming event. She also won two gold medals in the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games. She will represent the United States in open water swimming and counts former Olympian Michael Phelps among her heroes.
Virginia “Kalei” Lee
Virginia “Kalei” Lee is one of only two female powerlifters for Special Olympics USA. After competing in Special Olympics USA for almost 30 years in athletics, bocce, bowling and powerlifting, the Hawaiian will finally make her World Games debut in Berlin.
Gabriella and Julianna Martin
The sister act of tennis players from Denver will play as a Unified Sports doubles team in their World Games debut. Unified Sports competitions pair athletes with and without intellectual disabilities. Gabriella Martin, the Special Olympics USA athlete, has been a part of Special Olympics for 16 years, competing in bowling, soccer, swimming, tennis and volleyball. Julianna Martin has competed as a Unified partner for almost five years and credits her sister with inspiring her to get involved in Special Olympics.
From Long Island in New York, Sean O’Rourke will represent the United States in cycling. O’Rourke previously competed at the 2003 Special Olympic World Games in Dublin. Outside of Special Olympics, O’Rourke finished the Ironman Lake Placid triathlon in 14 hours and competed in two half-Ironman events.