Special Olympics athletes from across the nation are participating in the 2022 USA Games, a premier national Summer Games event showcasing the power and joy of sports. Competition will be offered in both traditional and Unified play, tapping into communities to support and play alongside our athletes.

Selection process for USA or World Games competition

Special Olympics offers higher level competitions in almost all sports on a rotating schedule.

USA Games are held every four years and typically offer competition in all summer sports. Winter sports are not offered at USA Games. USA Games began in 2006. The next USA Games will be held in 2022 in Orlando, Florida. For USA Games, Minnesota supports its own delegation and selects all athletes and coaches.

World Games are held in summer and winter sports, alternating every two years. The next World Winter Games will be held in 2021 in Sweden, and the next World Summer Games will be held in 2023 in Berlin, Germany. For World Games, Minnesota is part of the larger USA delegation and only selects athletes to represent the state. Coaches are selected through an application process managed by the USA Management Team.

Regardless of the level of competition, the timelines and selection process is fairly standard. It does involve many steps and different levels of the Special Olympics organization, however. Below are the general timelines for higher levels of competition.

Two years in advance

Host location determines sports and numbers of athletes it can host in each sport. Countries and/or states then request quota based on various factors including participation levels in available sports, when sports were last represented at a higher level of competition and financial resources to support their quota request.

One to two years in advance

Countries or states are notified what their quota allocation will be, including sports, number of athletes, gender and sometimes an ability level within the sport.

State programs then select who will represent them. For athletes, typically they must train and compete in a sport in which we received quota and earn a gold medal in the qualifying event. Typically, the qualifying event is the state competition one year prior to the USA or World Games, although sometimes registration deadlines may change this.

Athletes who are eligible to apply to a higher level of competition will be notified of the opportunity and process through their Head of Delegation. There will be application forms and deadlines which must be completed and met. Once the deadline passes, Special Olympics Minnesota staff will follow up with all applicants.

Final selection is done through a random draw in each sport from all athletes who applied and met the necessary qualifications outlined in the application process.

Year leading into games

Athletes commit to a training program as outlined by their higher-level coach. Athletes must train locally in the applicable sport and attend the state level competition for which they have been drawn.