22 July, 2015
Los Angeles, California is set to welcome more than 7,000 thousand athletes from 177 nations for the Special Olympics World Summer Games. The event gathers athletes with intellectual disabilities to take part in competitive sports. The events include basketball, gymnastics, foot races, bowling and many other summer sports. This year's games open July 25th.
Barbara Figueroa will be there. She is a competitive bowler from southern California. She has been playing the sport for nine years and is excited about the international competition.
Karen Terra is the Special Olympics director for San Diego. She says bowling practice helps Figueroa and other athletes stay focused.
"Oh, they're so excited. In fact, Barbara just told me earlier this morning, she feels like she's won the lottery. You did win the lottery. You're one of 36 people from Southern California who got selected to go to this, out of 17,000 athletes. That is huge."
Barbara Figueroa lives with Evelyn Benjamin, who has become like a grandmother. She says she has watched the athlete improve and shares in Figueroa's excitement.
"I think she's a little overwhelmed. She's very excited. But I don't think she has any idea yet just how special this is going to be. I tell her, but until you experience it, the unknown, you can only fantasize."
Barbara Figueroa says she's ready for Los Angeles.
"I cannot wait to meet a lot of people in L.A."
She practices with friends. And she plans to make some new ones from the thousands of athletes in the games.
Karen Terra says competition gives these athletes a sense of accomplishment.
"Sometimes, people with intellectual disabilities are just put off in a corner of a room and told they can't do things. And with Special Olympics, we tell them they can do things"
Eunice Kennedy Shriver established the Special Olympics in 1968. They are held every two years, alternating between winter and summer sports. South Korea held the most recent World Special Olympics in the winter of 2013. The most recent summer games were in Athens, Greece in 2011.
Those who know Barbara Figueroa say she's competitive and enthusiastic. And they say she is ready to show what she can do as a competitive bowler in the Special Olympics.
I'm Marsha James.
Mike O'Sullivan reported this story from Washington. Marsha James adapted it for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.
Words in This Story
intellectual – adj. of or relating to the ability to think in a logical way
practice – n. the activity of doing something again and again in order to become better at it
focus – n. a main purpose or interest
fantasize – v. to imagine doing something
accomplishment – n. the successful completion of something
enthusiastic adj. – feeling or showing strong excitement about something