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Special Olympic Athletes Visit San Diego On Way To World Games

More than 400 Special Olympics athletes and coaches take a break at the U.S.O.'s Neil Ash Airport Center at Lindbergh Field, July 21, 2015.
Matthew Bowler
More than 400 Special Olympics athletes and coaches take a break at the U.S.O.'s Neil Ash Airport Center at Lindbergh Field, July 21, 2015.

Special Olympic Athletes Visit San Diego On Way To World Games
Special Olympics athletes and coaches came to San Diego on Tuesday as they prepare for the World Games in Los Angeles. They will join more than 6,000 other athletes from 165 countries.

More than 480 Special Olympics athletes and coaches came to San Diego on Tuesday. They are on their way to the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles.

Special Olympics cyclist James Walker said competition is in his blood.

“I kind of have a competitive spirit,” Walker said. “I am always trying to do my best.”

During a break at the U.S.O.’s Neil Ash Airport Center at Lindbergh Field, Walker said he’s like any other Olympic athlete — he wants to win a gold medal.

But the Special Olympics are about a lot more than medals, he said.

“Wherever we go, no matter what team we’re on, we always treat ourselves with high respect,” Walker said.

Annie Dugan, director of marketing and communications for Special Olympics North America, said there are more than 90,000 Special Olympic events happening around the world every year.

“At no cost to the athlete, they can train and compete locally, progress to state competition, make it perhaps to a national competition. They could end up here,” Dugan said. “They could fly all the way across the country to California and compete against the world’s best.”

The Los Angeles Coliseum plays host to the star-studded opening ceremony on July 25. Celebrities scheduled to attend include Jimmy Kimmel, Stevie Wonder and Avril Lavigne.

They will join more than 6,000 other athletes from 165 countries.