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Special Olympics from A to Z

Unity, joy and friendship: that is what Special Olympics is all about! ((Photo: Tristan Shu / ESPN Images)
by Henry Rull and Christian A. Hoch, AIPS Young Reporters

GRAZ, March 26, 2017 – The Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria came to a crescendo with the Closing ceremony on Friday evening. Hence it is time to sum up the competition with some facts and numbers.

Austria is the first country to host the Special Olympics Winter or Summer World Games at least twice apart from the US.

Bharat is an archaic name for India. With 90 athletes, India had the fourth largest delegation in Austria after the hosts, USA and Canada.

Crossing barriers is one of the most important subjects of Special Olympics. People from all over the world come together and are open-minded for athletes with intellectual disabilities. Here, everyone is treated equally.

Dancing was one of the main sports at World Winter Games 2017. At the Orpheum in Graz, 123 dancers competed in solo, pair and crew disciplines.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the sister of John F. Kennedy, is the heart and creator behind Special Olympics. The first International Special Olympics was held in July 1968 in Chicago, US.

Floor hockey and floorball were two out of three sports, which were played at the Messe Graz. The third one was stick shooting.

Graz also hosted figure skating, speed skating and Motor Activity Training Program. The latter tested the mobility of athletes.

Hermann Kröll was the president of Special Olympics Austria for 23 years. He was the driving force to make Special Olympics a global movement and he succeeded in bringing the World Games to Austria twice. Kröll died last year.

Intellectual disability is a disability characterized by significant limitations in both intellectual functioning and in adaptive behaviour, which covers many everyday social and practical skills.

Joy is what counted the most for all of the 2634 athletes who competed in Austria.

Kosovo officially took part for the first time in the World Winter Games in 2017 since declaring independence from Serbia.

Lions Club Belgium received the Golisano Global Health Leadership Award in Austria, thanks to their achievements and dedication to the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes Program, where athletes got free healthcare.

Merkur Arena hosted the Closing Ceremony at Graz. Singers Andreas Gabalier from Austria and Helene Fischer from Germany peformed in the ceremony.

Next Special Olympics World Games – the summer edition - will be held in 2019 in Abu Dhabi.

(the) Oldest athlete who competed in Austria is 68 year-old Special Olympics Austria athlete Eugenie Ruhalter, competing in Stick Shooting.

Pyeonchchang, South Korea, where the Special Olympics World Winter Games were held in 2013 holds a special place in the heart of Danel Pärtelpoeg. The Estonian won two gold medals in cross-country disciplines in South Korea, but represented his homeland in floorball in Austria. ??

Qualification events in Special Olympics are called divisioning which ensures that athletes with equal ability compete against each other.

Ramsau and Schladming hosted snowshoeing, cross-country, alpine skiing, and snowboarding during the Games.

Sipan Tsaghkyan was the only athlete from Armenia. The other one-athlete team was FYR Macedonia.

The first Special Olympics World Winter Games were held in 1977 in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, USA.

Unified competitions in the Special Olympics mean that athletes with and without intellectual disabilities compete in the same team.

Volunteers are an integral part of the Special Olympics. Around 3000 volunteers were giving their best in Austria.

World renowned swimmer Michael Phelps is one of the superstar athletes who is a Special Olympics Global Ambassador, representing and spreading the message of the organisation. For example, former NBA star Dikembe Mutombo is also contributing to the movement

X [10] was both the shortest (m) and longest (km) discipline offered in cross-country skiing.

(the) Youngest athlete who competed in Austria is Alina Gismatullina, a figure skater from Uzbekistan, at not even eight and a half years old.

Zenonas Misiūnas from Lithuania is the coach for Rūta Tuskenytė. The 34-year-old Tuskenyte competed in her fifth and last Special Olympics in Austria.

Follow Henry on Twitter @henryrull

Follow Christian on Twitter @c_a_hoch

The Young Reporters Programme has been made possible thanks to the support of the European Union's Erasmus + programme

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