491 Athletes and Coaches to Represent U.S. at 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games Englewood, Colo. — Special Olympics Colorado is proud to announce that four athletes and a volunteer coach from Colorado have been named to Special Olympics Team USA. The 491 member delegation will represent the United States at the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games, being held July 25-August 2, 2015, in Los Angeles, California.
Nikia Davenport (Powerlifting, Denver), a 1993 graduate of Adams City High School, has been a Special Olympics athlete for 26 years. He has successfully completed SOCO Global Messenger training program and coaches’ certification in powerlifting. Davenport also competes in alpine skiing, basketball, bocce, cycling, and track and field. Davenport represented Team USA in powerlifting at the 1999 Special Olympics World Games in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and he competed at the 2010 Special Olympics USA Games in Lincoln, Nebraska for Team Colorado. He came back home from the 2010 Games with three medals – gold, silver and bronze. Davenport lives in his own apartment, is a diehard Dallas Cowboys fan and spends lots of quality time with his family. He says one of his fondest memories as a Special Olympics athlete was hearing Eunice Kennedy Shriver speak at the 1999 World Games.
Julian Hall (Tennis, Denver), a 25-year-old and 2008 Denver East High School graduate, has overcome many challenges in his life, including a life-threatening brain infection that caused a stroke. The stroke later developed into non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Hall never let his health challenges dampen his determination and love for Special Olympics. Even today he continues to live his life to the fullest with an ever-present smile. Hall has been involved with Special Olympics Colorado since 2004 and competes in basketball, bowling, flag football, tennis, and track and field. Hall competed in the very first Special Olympics USA Games in Ames, Iowa, in 2006 where as a tennis standout he earned a silver medal in the singles division. Hall was a letter-winner on the Denver East High School varsity tennis team. Hall has been employed at Cici’s Pizza since 2009 and can be found helping in the community at his local parish on a regular basis.
Nathan Knepper (Tennis, Golden, Colo.) is a 37-year-old who has been involved with Special Olympics for six years. A 1995 graduate of Golden High School, Knepper has been working at Vitamin Cottage Natural Grocers warehouse for more than 10 years. He lives independently and owns a condo in Golden. He was first interested in competing after watching his brother, Bryan, play college tennis the University of Colorado. His brother’s success and passion became his inspiration and he picked up a new sport in his late 20s. At first he was hitting a ball around with family, and two years later he was competing with Special Olympics Colorado. Knepper is now coached by Bryan and SOCO Tennis Director Vicky Matarazzo. Matarazzo and her team of volunteer players and coaches have been an important influence on Knepper’s development. He likes to practice as often as possible, and his practice has proven to be fruitful. Knepper took home gold from the Special Olympics Colorado Summer Classic three times, and he earned a gold medal at the 2010 USA Games in Lincoln, Nebraska. Special Olympics has afforded him to travel as far as Hilton Head Island (S.C.) where he won a gold in the open doubles division and silver in the singles competition. On two occasions, Knepper has won titles at the Boar’s Head Invitational Tournament in Charlottesville, Virginia. Knepper has also developed a love for ice hockey and has competed with the International Special Hockey Association against teams from other parts of the United States, Canada and England. In Special Olympics, he also competed for many years in alpine skiing (slalom and giant slalom) and medaled at the SOCO Winter Games at Copper Mountain.
Chris McElroy (Aquatics, Aurora, Colo.) has been involved with Special Olympics for over 10 years. His sister, Melissa, and his mother, Lourdes, have faithfully been by Chris’ side while he competes in Special Olympics. Melissa is the Aurora Community Program Coordinator and Lourdes regularly volunteers for the same program. He competes in basketball and is currently preparing for certification as a referee. In addition to swimming, McElroy competes in bowling, flag football, and golf. At the 2014 Special Olympics Colorado Summer Games at Colorado Mesa University, McElroy won gold in the 50-meter backstroke. His medal-winning performance was even more gratifying to because his grandparents, who traveled all the way from Spain, were able to celebrate his accomplishments with him in person. McElroy graduated from Smoky Hill High School in 2006 and advanced to the transition program at Cherry Creek.
Jenny Chase (Bowling Coach, Littleton, Colo.), a volunteer for Special Olympics Colorado, will serve as a bowling coach for Team USA. Chase served in many capacities as a full-time employee over 10 years, including Family and Volunteer Coordinator, Program Coordinator, and Area Manager prior to her last role for SOCO as Director of Sports and Competition for Special Olympics Colorado. Chase has participated in four Special Olympics World Games, most recently as a snowshoe coach at the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games in South Korea. She also participated at the Games in: Greece (2011, bowling coach); Boise, Idaho (2009, snowshoe coach); and Ireland (2003, SOCO family liaison).
The U.S. “home team” will include 304 athletes and 43 Unified Partners competing in 17 sports, 102 volunteer coaches, and 42 volunteer sports and management team members, representing all fifty states and the District of Columbia. The team also includes several Special Olympics Unified Sports® teams, where people with and without intellectual disability compete together, as teammates.
Every two years, the world transcends the boundaries of geography, nationality, political philosophy, gender, age, culture and religion to come together for Special Olympics World Games. Alternating between summer and winter Games, this event is the flagship event of the Special Olympics movement, which promotes equality, tolerance and acceptance through the power and joy of sport. This prominent world stage brings attention to the Special Olympics movement and the abilities of people with intellectual disabilities. Currently, more than 4.4 million Special Olympics athletes train and compete year-round in 170 nations across the globe.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for these athletes to demonstrate their athletic abilities, competing at the highest level on the world stage, and to have life and cultural experiences that will stay with them for the rest of their lives,” said Chris Hahn, Head of Delegation for Special Olympics Team USA. Hahn added, “I encourage every American to cheer on these inspiring athletes, to share in their triumphs and to take pride in knowing that they will represent our country with excellence and honor.”
Visit www.specialolympicsteamusa.org to meet the team and learn more. More than 7,000 athletes from 177 nations will compete in 25 Olympic-type sports at the 2015 World Games, which marks the 14th Special Olympics World Summer Games: Aquatics, Athletics, Badminton, Basketball, Beach Volleyball, Bocce, Bowling, Cycling, Equestrian, Golf, Gymnastics, Judo, Kayaking, Half Marathon, Open Water Swim, Power Lifting, Roller Skating, Sailing, Softball, Soccer, Table Tennis, Team Handball, Tennis, Triathlon and Volleyball. With an anticipated 30,000 volunteers and 500,000 spectators, the 2015 Special Olympics World Games will be the largest sports and humanitarian event anywhere in the world in 2015, and the single biggest event in Los Angeles since the 1984 Olympic Games. ESPN is the official broadcast partner of the 2015 Special Olympics World Games, allowing an unprecedented amount of viewers around the world to be introduced to the power of Special Olympics. To learn more, visit www.LA2015.org
Official sponsors for Special Olympics Team USA include Finish Line, Champion, The Coca-Cola Company, Tommie Copper, Midwest Trophy Manufacturing, KPMG – Golf team sponsor, Mattel – Cycling team sponsor and Speedo USA – Swimming team official supplier. To learn more about Special Olympics Team USA and to follow the team to the World Games, visit www.specialolympicsteamusa.org, follow on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SOTeamUSA, Twitter @SOTeamUSA, Instagram: SOTeamUSA.