JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The 2022 Special Olympics USA Games will begin next week, and athletes and their families have already made their way to Orlando to prepare.
There are more than 5,500 athletes competing in this year’s games, including 600 with Team Florida.
On Friday at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, friends and family celebrated local athletes before sending them off for the games.
“I have the most amazing team ever. I have amazing coaches, too, and amazing parents,” said Ashlyn Savel, who is competing.
Savel told us she’s eager to meet the athletes from other nations.
Megan Bell said she’ll compete on the paddleboard for two miles. She’s been doing it for five years.
Also on Friday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis visited Orlando, where he held a news conference and spoke about the games.
“We want everybody in the state to be able to have opportunities and to make the most of their God-given abilities and then to be able to compete in athletics, and obviously, that takes a variety of different forms. But when you have folks that have disabilities, to give them an opportunity to compete, is really meaningful,” DeSantis said. “And I can tell you, the heart and the determination you see from our Special Olympians is remarkable, and they’re able to do things that frankly, I don’t think that I would be able to do under those circumstances, and so they really should be admired and commended.”
The opening ceremony will take place at Exploria Stadium on Sunday, with the competitions running from Monday to next Saturday.