As ESPN.com counts down to the start of the Special Olympics World Games on July 25-Aug. 2 in Los Angeles, athletes, families and volunteers are sharing their stories with us. The following is a blog from Special Olympics athlete Steven Dodd.
Thank you very much for letting me write this blog for Special Olympics World Games. I would like to take you on my journey.
I have taken part in swimming and kayaking for many years. I train at least three times a week at the Plymouth & District club in South West England. Last year, I was raising money in the community and was told I was going to Los Angeles for the Special Olympics. I couldn't believe it. I have never been to America.
I competed in the 2013 Special Olympics National Games in Bath, England, and that gave me the belief to compete and enjoy sports. I was a volunteer in my community for more than five years, motivating teams to fundraise projects and trips for disadvantaged people. I have also done mission work with Smile International on five separate occasions. I was nominated and then selected for a "Young Achievers" award and attended a reception by the Queen of England -- who has written to me ahead of the L.A. Games -- at Buckingham Palace. What an honor meeting her and Prince Charles.
Following this, I organized the first fully disabled Prince's Trust team after asking Prince Charles for permission. I spent three days visiting the Houses of Parliament as a guest of my MP (Member of Parliament) in Plymouth. I went to Dublin with the Prince's Trust and Prince Charles gave me his business card.
I am a big fan of Steven Segal's martial arts and I have met him. My heroes are Segal, Brian from Tamar Canoe club and Angela Frayling, kayaking coach for Great Britain. I am also a pen friend with the Royal Marines' Alan Stockdale.
My highlights are meeting the Red Arrows, swimming the blue mile in Plymouth and meeting comedian Ken Dodd and The Royal Family. I enjoy drawing portraits and love art. I also enjoy camping, dog-showing, archery and shooting. I have done kayaking, running, biking, swimming, climbing, abseiling, walking, camping, hand-to-hand combat, disc javelin, shot put, roller skating, ice skating, horseback riding, pool and snooker. My nickname is Padrino and I enjoy going to church.
I just want to achieve my very best, enjoy new experiences and make friends.