July 5, 2018
Determination, inspiration sum up 50th Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle
Born just before Hurricane Iniki hit the tiny Hawaiian island of Kauai in 1992, Divine Pearl Navalta, known to family as "The Sparkling Diva," was one of the smallest competitors at the 50th Special Olympics USA Games at the University of Washington in Seattle July 1-6.
As complications arose with Divine shortly after her birth, Navalta's family could not find a doctor due to the storm damage. The end result is an athlete, small in stature, but mighty in determination.
At just 5 feet, 1 inch and 105 pounds, she won the female High Performance 100-meter competition Monday. ESPN.com covered her uplifting story.
Navalta's story is just one of hundreds among the inspiring athletes of all ages and abilities, like swimmer Michael Rudd Jr., powerlifter David Paul and marathoner Andrew Peterson, competing in everything from bowling, golf and soccer to softball, tennis and stand-up paddleboard.
"The 2018 Special Olympics USA Games will showcase the abilities of athletes with intellectual disabilities, promote the ideals of acceptance and inclusion through sport, and celebrate the transformative power of Special Olympics," said Beth Knox, president and CEO of 2018 Special Olympics USA Games.
From a volunteer perspective, the week's competitions have done just that.
At the track and field venue, one dad proudly pointed to his son waiting in spot five on the track to run the 400-meter race. "Run your race, Ryan," he shouted, which was acknowledged with a thumbs-up.
After the race, that same athlete talked about going to the medal ceremony later that night. He had been there before, he told his family. He'd lead the way, he said.
Make no mistake, the athletes train hard for these games and are all going for gold.
After winning a gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle, swimmer Victoria Smith told ESPN reporter Victoria Arlen that anyone can compete, regardless of one's disability.
"I've been training for gold and I'm just so happy my training paid off," she said. "Regardless of your disability, if you train as hard as that, you can compete and you can win gold."
And, the athletes have the support of family -- a lot of family. Each athlete this volunteer encountered had the support of several generations -- from moms and dads and sisters and brothers to godmothers and great-grandparents -- in the stands cheering them on as they competed for medals.
ESPN Media Zone has feature stories on several athletes and is live streaming online throughout the games, which conclude Friday, July 6, with a closing ceremony.
AWB member Microsoft was the presenting sponsor of the games, but members like PACCAR, Amazon and many others were also key to ensuring the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games had the support needed to ensure all athletes, families and fans experienced a great event.
Congratulations to all the athletes, families, coaches, sponsors and thousands of volunteers at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games on a job well done.