It was one of the most touching, inspirational, wonderful open water swims we have ever witnessed since 1968.

It brought tears to not only the spectators, but also several athletes shed tears of joys when they crossed the finish line. The athletes were extraordinarily appreciative for the opportunity to swim in the open water.

Her Serene Highness Charlene, Princess of Monaco, provided outstanding support of the sport of open water swimming and also participated in the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games.

In Marathon Bay in Greece, 35 Special Olympics athletes from 19 countries took to the open water.

They competed as passionately as anyone else has on this planet. They were not only swimming for themselves and proudly representing their country, but also for the multitudes of other intellectually disabled athletes around the world.

The 1.5 km world championship event in the Bay of Marathon in the Aegean Sea was won by Andrew Smilley of the Cayman Islands and Cornelia Fowler of South Africa. They both swam well-paced, excellently navigated courses on a beautiful summer day in Athens.

Today, Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa explained the high expectations Southern California has for bringing the next Special Olympics World Summer Games to Los Angeles in 2015. The Mayor expects more than 500,000 spectators and media representatives, 7,000 athletes and 3,000 coaches representing 170 countries, to California for the Games held between July 24th and August 2nd 2015. The 1.5 km open water swim will be held in Marine Stadium in Long Beach.

I am excited that this unique event celebrating the achievements and spirit of people with intellectual disabilities will boost our local economy in 2015,” Mayor Villaraigosa said. “But it will also continue its tremendous work improving the quality of life, as well as respect and dignity, for those with disabilities.” The 2015 Games will be the largest single event to be staged in Los Angeles since the 1984 Olympic Games and are projected be the largest sports and humanitarian event held anywhere in the world in 2015, featuring 26 Olympic-style events at venues throughout Los Angeles County, including USC, UCLA, the Los Angeles Convention Center and Griffith Park, as well Marine Stadium in Long Beach (shown above).

They say Los Angeles is a place where dreams come true,” Special Olympics athlete, Global Messenger and member of the LA2015 Board of Directors Dustin Plunkett said. “At the last World Summer Games in Greece, I said that I hoped one day these Games and my fellow athletes would come to Los Angeles; that dream came true!

Back in 2010 we confidently predicted that Special Olympics athletes could – and would – swim 1.5 km in Marathon Bay with confidence and skill. But there were still many who doubted open water swimming was an appropriate sport for athletes with intellectual disabilities. These athletes erased many of those doubts and fears,” recalled Steven Munatones, the Technical Director of the open water event in the Bay of Marathon. “We planned the course with safety in mind, but it was still a challenging course where the athletes were able to showcase their skills. They worked hard in training and their coaches prepared them well. It was a world championship event and these athletes far exceeded our expectations. They set the bar for all future open water swimming competitions at the Special Olympics.”

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