The Special Olympics World Games will draw thousands of athletes to Los Angeles this weekend, each one bringing a unique story about obstacles faced and overcome. The more than 7,000 competitors come from 177 countries and have intellectual disabilities including Down syndrome and fetal alcohol syndrome. They will face off in 25 sports.

The Special Olympics began in 1968 under the leadership of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, John F. Kennedy’s sister. Shriver, whose sister Rosemary suffered from an intellectual disability, had fought for many years to increase recreational opportunities for those like her.

Today, the Special Olympics provides competitions to over 4.4 million athletes across the globe, and hosts the Summer World Games every two years.

Here are some of the most inspiring stories from those who have competed, from the four-season athlete who hugged President Obama to the accomplished runner who has her own Disney movie.


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