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 Lize Weerdenburg who is attending the World Games as an International Global Messenger.
My name is Lize Weerdenburg, I am 27 years old and I come from the Netherlands. My favorite sport is speedskating. Participating in sports is very meaningful to me.
Training makes me physically stronger and this helps me be healthy. This is important for me because it makes me feel strong and confident, but there is more than just the physical effect on my body. By participating in sports, I get to know many different people and I love having fun with my teammates and coach. Meeting other people and training together has taught me many things, and I have come to see that everyone has his or her own obstacles to overcome when they want to become stronger, better and faster.
I love to win medals and get applause from the audience, but I have also learned that losing a race is okay, too. What I like about speedskating in particular is that I can feel the wind in my hair when I go fast. I can clear my head and think about happy things. Speedskating makes me feel like I can conquer the world because it makes all my worries go away.
I train once a week on Sunday mornings at an outdoor track in Amsterdam. Whenever there is an important competition coming up, extra training is scheduled on another day. It is important for me to train as hard as I can when I prepare for a competition. When I practice a lot, I know I don't need to be nervous when I compete against others. I pay special attention to my technique by perfecting my balance and trying to take longer strokes. I also focus on training the muscles in my legs so that they are strong and I can be powerful when I am sliding over the ice. This makes me feel confident.
I believe that supporting my teammates is an important part of participating in sports. I cheer for my teammates whenever they compete, and I show them that I am proud of their accomplishments. I encourage them by hugging them when they cross the finish line or complementing them about how they did in the race. My teammates also support me in the same way and that feels great. We treat each other with respect, love and acceptance. This makes me happy.
I believe that playing sports is very important for people with an intellectual disability and therefore I take my responsibilities as a Sargent Shriver International Global Messenger (IGM) very seriously. To prepare for my tasks in Los Angeles, I practice a lot with my mentor. We sit together every week to prepare speeches and talk about my responsibilities as an IGM. I don't feel secure around lots of people, so we also practice greeting people and introducing myself to people I don't know. This is difficult for me, so it is good to practice this as much as we can. I like to be well-prepared so I don't need to feel insecure.
I am looking forward to going to Los Angeles, telling the world what Special Olympics means to me and why participating in sports is so important!