World Games are the highest level of competition for Special Olympics. There are World Winter Games held every four years and World Summer Games held every 4 years. Like the Olympics Games, they are on a schedule so that every two years there is a World Games. Athletes selected for World Games are done so by nomination. A nomination process generally starts approximately 12-15 months prior to the start of the Games.
Prior to 2003, all World Summer Games events had been held in the United States, with only two World Winter Games events having been held elsewhere (1997 in Toronto, Ontario and 1993 in Salzburg and Schladming, Austria). In 2003, the World Summer Games were held in Dublin, Ireland. Nagano, Japan, played host to the next World Games outside the US, hosting the 2005 World Winter Games at many of the same venues that had been used for the 1998 Winter Olympics. The 2007 World Summer Games became the first Summer Games to be held in Asia when they took place in Shanghai, China. In 2009, the World Games returned to the US with the World Winter Games in Boise Idaho.
After their brief return to the U.S., however, the World Games returned overseas for the 2011 World Summer Games. Those Games were held June 25-July 4, 2011 at the birthplace of the Olympic movement, Athens, Greece. Five Kentucky athletes and two coaches took part in those games, with Kentucky athletes claiming 14 medals.
Two Kentucky athletes — Kelly McCormick and Rickey Oney — competed the 2013 World Winter Games in the South Korean Skiing mecca of Pyeongchang. There is no word as of yet as to how many Kentucky athletes will be participating in those Games. Kelly and Rickey won one medal apiece at the Games.
The World Summer Games returned to the United States for the first time since 1999, when Los Angeles hosted the 2015 World Summer Games. Four Kentucky athletes traveled to Los Angeles as part of the Special Olympics USA Team, winning 11 medals, six of them gold.
In 2017, the World Games once again left the USA, when the World Winter Games were contested in Austria for the second time. Many of the ski events will be held in the same venues that hosted the very first World Games outside the USA in 1993. Kelly McCormick was again one of the athletes who represented Kentucky at the Games, where she was joined by Patrick Tutsch of Lexington. McCormick claimed one gold medal in the giant slalom. Tutsch took bronze in the Super G.
A Middle Eastern Country hosted the World Games for the first time in 2019 as Abu Dhabi brought the world together that March. Two Kentucky athletes – Gymnasts Tonya Cornett of Lexington and Lee Dockins of Russellville – were part of the Special Olympics USA team at the Games. Each claimed five medals at the Games with Cornett claiming two silver and three bronze and Dockins bringing home three silvers and a pair of bronze.
Due to issues surrounding the COVID 19 pandemic, the 2021 World Winter Games will actually be held in early 2022 in Khazan, Russia, from January 22-28. More than 2,000 athletes from 108 countries are expected to compete. DesaRae Nickell of Morehead will represent Kentucky at the Games as part of the USA Team.
For more information about the World Games or about how you can support the Kentucky athletes going to the Games, please contact Special Olympics Kentucky President/CEO Trish Mazzoni at 800-633-7403 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
World Games History
(Click Here for More Information on Games in Individual Years)
1968 — International Special Olympics Summer Games; Soldier Field; Chicago, IL
1970 — International Special Olympics Summer Games; Chicago, IL
1972 — International Special Olympics Summer Games; University of California at Los Angeles; Los Angeles, CA
1975 — International Special Olympics Summer Games; Central Michigan University; Mt. Pleasant, MI
1977 — International Special Olympics Winter Games; Steamboat Springs, CO
1979 — International Special Olympics Summer Games; SUNY-Brockport; Brockport, NY
1981 — International Special Olympics Winter Games; Smuggler’s Notch and Stowe, VT
1983 — International Special Olympics Summer Games; Louisiana state University; Baton Rouge, LA
1985 — International Special Olympics Winter Games; Park City, UT
1987 — International Special Olympics Summer Games; University of Notre Dame and St. Mary’s College;South Bend, IN
1989 — International Special Olympics Winter Games; Reno, NV
1991 — World Summer Games*; Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN (* – Name officially changed for 1991 Games)
1993 — World Winter Games; Salzburg and Schladming, Austria
1995 — World Summer Games; New Haven, CT
1997 — World Winter Games; Toronto, Ontario, Canada
1999 — World Summer Games; Raleigh-Durham, NC
2001 — World Winter Games; Anchorage, AK
2003 — World Summer Games; Dublin, Ireland
2005 — World Winter Games; Nagano, Japan
2007 — World Summer Games; Shanghai, China
2009 — World WInter Games; Boise, Idaho
2011 — World Summer Games; Athens, Greece
2013 — World Winter Games; Pyeonchang, South Korea
2015 — World Summer Games; Los Angeles
2017 — World Winter Games; Graz/Schladming/Ramsau/Styria, Austria
2019 — World Summer Games; Abu Dhabi
2021 (2022) — World Winter Games; Khazan, Russia