Special Olympics

Team USA vs. Team Morocco - With Heart and Soul, there are no losers!

     The Special Olympic World Winter Games Austria 2017 was an event filled with athletes having more heart and soul, and sheer determination, that I have witnessed in any group of people.  Special Olympics is more than just competitors striving to win over their opponents, and in my opinion, has a much more deeper and meaningful level: to give these inspirational men and women, both young and old, a sense of accomplishment and confidence in their abilities and talents in a world that in many cases does not have the pleasure or insight to see.

Team USA Snowboarders Take the Gold at Special Olympic World Winter Games Austria 2017

Photo Credits: Freddie B. Photography™

    The biggest challenge I place upon myself as a photojournalist covering Special Olympic events is that I try to cover as many events and as many athletes as I can.  And the biggest on-going regret as I have as a photojournalist covering Special Olympic events, is that I am unable to cover them all for I yearn to do my part to help bring the spotlight to all of these most deserving athletes with all their displays of courage, abilities, and celebrations of triumph for they deserve no less.   This will be a delimma; an emotion I consider not a bad thing as it comes from a good place within my heart, that I will struggle with for all the time I cover Special Olympic events, which, if I am blessed enough, will not end anytime soon.

Special Olympics Chairman Dr. Tim Shriver and NBA Star Sam Perkins take to the rink in the Special Olympics World Games Unified Sports Experience

Photo Credit: Freddie B. Photography™

       The Unified Sports Experience (USE) is a Special Olympics program that brings together Special Olympics athletes, professional and Olympic athletes, dignitaries and celebrities on the same team in a one-day sports competition event as to, in part, to provide an inclusive and competitive experience.  The USE stems from Unified Sports, which is a program that promotes social inclusion through shared sports training and competition experiences for individuals with and without intellectual disabilities with more than 1.2 million people throughout the world taking part in the program.  

The Opening Ceremonies of the Special Olympic World Winter Games Austria 2017

Photo Credits: Freddie B. Photography™

    A day to be remembered...the Opening Ceremonies of the Special Olympic World Games Austria 2017.  Held at the Planai Stadium in the Austria city of Schladming on March 18th, the day began with a drizzle that evolved into a light rain accompanying most of the ceremonies.  But this did not seem to stave off the masses from coming to witness such a spectacular event nor did it appear to dampen the spirits and outwardly buzz of excitement of the participating athletes.  I know for me, in spite of my fruitless efforts to keep my camera dry in the media pit area, was almost ignorant of the rain's presence due to being caught up in the many soul-touching moments.

The first day of Sports Competition - Divisioning and the Arrival of the Flame of Hope in the city of Graz

Photo Credits: Freddie B. Photography™

    The first day of the sports competition for the Special Olympic World Winter Games Austria  2017, the divisioning of the the teams from around the world.  Divisioning is a unique system used by Special Olympics to give athletes of all ablities the chance for exciting competition and usually occurs before the start of the World Games competitions.   What happens is that divisioning races, judge events, or short team matches are held to assess the athletes' or teams' ability levels in competition by team ratings or skill level.  The athletes or teams are grouped into the divisions according to three criteria: gender, age and ability level., and there are a minimum of three and a maximum of eight athletes or teams in a division.  The divisioning took place at all three different Special Olympic World Winter Games venues: Schladming, Ramsau, and Graz with the winter sports ranging from Cross Country & Alpine skiing to Figure & Speed Skating to Floor Hockey & Floorball, to Snowboarding and Snow Shoeing.

Special Olympic World Winter Games Host Town Bruck An Der Mur Welcomes the Flame of Hope

Photo Credit: Freddie B. Photography™

     Bruck An Der Mur (Bruck on the Mur, i.e. Mur River) is one of your everyday picturesque villages located in the Austrian state of Styria, having a population of approximately 13,500 people, and rich with culture and history, including a trade in scrape metal that dates back to around 800 BC.

The Special Olympic World Winter Games Austria 2017 is nearly upon us...and this Aspie is here to cover it.

Photo credits: Freddie B. Photography™ (Copyright 2017)

     It's almost here...the world’s largest sports and humanitarian event.  An event that will inspire and "move" people in ways and to the depth seldom experienced.  An event to be attended by thousands and that will be watched by people from all across the globe: the Special Olympic World Winter Games Austria 2017.

     From March 18th to March 25th, the country of Austria will be hosting the Special Olympic World Winter Games 2017 with over 2700 Special Olympic athletes and 1000 coaches from 170 countries in attendance along with 10,000 volunteers.  Witnessing these inspirational examples of courage, accomplishment, and determination will be thousands in attendance with countless numbers watching from their television sets from homes all across the world.  These athletes will be competing in Alpine Skiing, Cross Country Skiing, Figure Skating, Speed Skating, Floor Hockey, Floorball, Snowboarding, Snowshoeing, and Stick Shooting at locations in Schladming-Rohrmoos, Graz and Ramsau and will be televised via ESPN with live coverage of the opening ceremonies.

Remembering Olivia Quigley (1992-2016)...an Inspiration for Us All!

     It was near the end of a long day at the Katherine B. Loker Track & Field Staduim at USC, Los Angles, where I had been covering a variety of Special Olympic World Games LA 2015 athletic events since earlier in the day as a media photographer for Specialneeds.com.  I had taken hundreds of photos of several different track events that day, and thousands during the previous week of a variety of different events at a variety of different venues; the games were almost over and I was exhausted.  I started to pack up my gear as I was about to call it the day; I had so much work to do as a result of the day's coverage, when one fo the referees on the field whispered to me, "You might want to stick around for a special athlete competing soon."  

An Inspirational Day at the Special Olympics Southern California 2015 Fall Games

     This is it - what over 1100 athletes having what I call, “special gifts” have been waiting for, and training for all year: The Special Olympics Southern California Fall Games.  The Fall Games were held at three different venues - Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, & Irvine with athletes competing in six sports: bowling, floor hockey, soccer, softball, tennis, and volleyball, with an expected attendance of more than 4000 athletes, coaches, volunteers, and spectators over the course of the two-day event.  As a photojournalist who desires to cover it all, I had to reluctantly select only one venue: Fountain Valley Recreation Center and Sports Park where the soccer and tennis events would be held.

Special Olympics Riverside Softball Team Takes the Gold at the Inland Empire Regional Fall Games

      Ever since I had the honor of spending nine days of my life from sunup to sundown covering the Special Olympic World Games LA 2015 this last July as a media photographer for Specialneeds.com, I yearned to continue my involvement in the Special Olympics whenever and wherever I could.  Not only because I learned just before the games that I shared one of the same “Special Gifts” as those competing athletes, but more importantly, because I found in these athletes a joy, courage, and passion that inspired me beyond words.  As a result, I felt a “need”--a blessed obligation--to witness more of this and to share what I saw with those that would listen to my words and read the words I would write in the hopes this infectious inspiration would “rub” off in some way.