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Special Olympics of Greater Memphis athletes win big at Special Olympic USA Games

“It's Special Olympics. It's just not about the sports. It's just, it's also about the friendship and them learning to be happy with themselves,” said Lisa Taylor.

MEMPHIS, Mo. — Nearly 5,000 athletes are participating in this year’s Special Olympic USA Games in Orlando, Florida.

Twenty are representing Memphis.

This is the first time since the pandemic that Memphis athletes have participated in the Special Olympic USA Games. It is like they never left. We spoke with Alex Hannah, who not only competed, but is bringing home a bronze medal.

Lose yourself in the moment of joy, exuberance, and pride.

“It's Special Olympics. It's just not about the sports. It's just, it's also about the friendship and them learning to be happy with themselves,” said Lisa Taylor, Special Olympics of Greater Memphis Director

Self-assurance is the biggest medal of it all. No one rocks it more proudly than Alex Hannah, a Special Olympic of Greater Memphis athlete.

“I have autism,” said Hannah. 

He joined the team as a kid.

“I've been going to Special Olympics that has like, changed my life,” said Hannah. 

His life changed in more ways than he or his team’s Director, Lisa Taylor, could imagine.

“I met Alex and his mom and dad when he was very young. Alex would not talk. He was very timid. He was having a hard time fitting in,” said Taylor.

“I was kind of shy because I don't. I didn't. I wasn't like, understanding,” said Hannah. 

Through the Special Olympics, that all changed. 

“I have the opportunity to make lots of friends and make lots of friends, and just being who I am with no judgment.”

Hannah is building courage without limits. 

“I was chosen out of the cup saying that I have the opportunity to be in the USA Competition so being here for the first time is different, but I'm enjoying... I've been picked to play bowling.”

Credit: Special Olympics of Greater Memphis

At this year’s Special Olympic USA Games, Hannah struck big, taking home a bronze medal. 

“This is like my first USA medal I've ever I've ever got,” said Hannah.

“Just because he has a disability doesn't mean he can't do everything everyone else can,” said Taylor.

“But people can. But people can. But it takes a lot of practice,” said Hannah. 

It takes both practice and faith. 

“I've been getting like more confidence, more advice, and more advices from her and my parents, and also all, although the coaches,” said Hannah.

“Now, he's Mr. Chatterbox. He is on the Grizz crew. He's a healthy messenger. He just got done doing it a role with Woody Harrelson that's gonna be coming out. Oh, yeah, yeah. So Oh, yeah, national Olympics took Alex and running out of his shell,” said Taylor. 

After breaking his shell, Hannah now shares his boldness with others.

Credit: Special Olympics of Greater Memphis

“People that have disabilities doesn't mean that everybody can't do what everybody else can. So, so what so my own, I feel like my own philosophy is to just get everybody involved,” said Hannah. 

He is helping other athletes sport their medal of confidence.

The Special Olympics of Greater Memphis team returns home on Sunday, June 12. All athletes are coming home as champs.

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