NEW BERLIN, Wis. – Wisconsin’s Special Olympics soccer team, part of TEAM USA at the recent World Summer Games, beat the Ireland team to earn a silver medal. The 16 players, drawn from an array of Wisconsin teams, were chosen to be the only traditional “11-a-side” TEAM USA World Games soccer team to compete at the games, held in Dublin, Ireland, June 21-29.

Special Olympics Team USA Wisconsin, in addition to earning the silver for the U.S., brought home an additional 19 medals in track & field, power lifting, and tennis.

“The soccer team's silver medal is a great tribute to their hard work, practice, and determination, but the overwhelming enthusiasm and welcome of the spectators and, indeed, the whole of Ireland, has been as gratifying as all of our athletes' medals,” said Karin Hawley, Special Olympics Wisconsin Area Director.

“These athletes have tremendous spirit and energy," noted Chuck Clark, senior vice president of ABB Inc., Automation Technologies, Drives and Motors ( New Berlin-based ABB is a long-time sponsor of the Special Olympics organization at the local, state, national, and international level, and supported the soccer team in 2003 from district competition to the World Summer Games.

Clark, along with employee volunteers, saw the team off to the games with fanfare and well wishes on Father's Day. “Clearly, they extended this spirit and drive onto the world stage and honored our entire country in the process,” he added.

The soccer team had to make terrific adjustments, according to Hawley, which makes the silver medal all the more remarkable. Wisconsin fielded the only “11-a-side” soccer team for TEAM USA. “That is the traditional soccer team size,” she said. “But all the athletes on this team played on “5-a-side” teams. So they adapted both to much larger playing fields and to different game rules. And they played spectacularly!”

The Special Olympics athletes had been preparing for the World Games for a year, since being informed they had been chosen to represent Wisconsin. Last September, they joined other athletes from the North Central Region in South Dakota for a World Games Athlete Training Camp.

The Special Olympics World Games hosted 18 sports, including track & field, aquatics, badminton, basketball, bocce, bowling, cycling, equestrian, golf, gymnastics, power lifting, roller skating, sailing, soccer, table tennis, tennis, team handball, and volleyball.

With 1,000 U.S. athletes representing Special Olympics Team USA, more than 3,500 family members and friends traveled to Ireland to cheer for their athletes, sharing in one of the biggest moments in their lives. Worldwide, approximately 7,000 athletes, 3,000 coaches and official delegates, 28,000 family members and friends, and 500,000 spectators visited Dublin to celebrate and be a part of the Games.

Publication date: 07/21/2003