WTI-GAC-Group photo with leadership-9607.jpg
Will Schermerhorn
Special Olympics Athlete Leadership

For the first time since 2010, the Global Athlete Congress convened to develop leadership skills to enable athletes to become change makers in Special Olympics, their communities and the workplace. In November, 60 athletes from 50 countries traveled to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic for a five-day event hosted by First Lady Cándida Montilla de Medina. This was the first time all seven Regional Athlete Input Councils participated in a Global Athlete Congress, thus ensuring full global participation.


More than 300 guests assembled for the opening session including First Lady Montilla de Medina, other dignitaries and guests from the Pan American Health Organization, the World Health Organization, Special Olympics Board of Directors and local media. Erika Ender, Special Olympics Global Ambassador and Grammy Award Winning composer, was also in attendance.


With the goal of becoming a truly athlete led movement, training sessions were held on how to become assistant coaches, Health Messengers, leaders within Special Olympics and members of local Special Olympics Board of Directors.

While in Santo Domingo, athlete leaders met with the Special Olympics Board of Directors to discuss athlete-to-Unified partner ratio in Unified Sports, hiring people with intellectual disabilities as staff, and working with athletes in marketing and awareness campaigns.


Several key results came out of the 2018 Global Athlete Congress.

  • Global Athlete Congress members will present two statements for the Special Olympics Board to consider and vote on incorporating in the General Rules.
  • The commitment was made to convene every four to five years.
  • Nyasha Derera, SO Zimbabwe, was voted as Chair of the Congress and therefore automatically assumed a seat on the Special Olympics Board of Directors.