Strong together – Special Olympics

900 athletes are competing in ten disciplines – the National Winter Games of the Special Olympics in Thuringia are the largest inclusive sporting event in Germany this year. IAV is sponsoring the games for people with intellectual and multiple disabilities, and our employees are on site as volunteers. Here they share their impressions this week.


Happy faces everywhere: among the athletes after the first competitions and medals – and also among our volunteers who are taking part in the Special Olympics Winter Games in Thuringia.

What they say: “We are experiencing a really nice inclusive sports festival”, “great atmosphere”, “incredible”, “the sporting performance of the athletes is impressive”, “wonderful event”.

The games continue until tomorrow, Friday. You can already get some first-hand impressions today – follow our volunteers to the ice-skating stadium:

IAV volunteer Jessica takes you to the Special Olympics Winter Games. 

Everyone is a winner

Jessica Maul training with her unified partner Eva Tremel | Image: SOD, Christian Seeling

Jessica Maul wanted to “create some magic on the ice”. And she did just that.

At the Special Olympics National Winter Games in Thuringia, Jessica performed her figure skating routine today. She showed seven elements to the song “Danke” (“Thank you”) by LaFee, including, for the first time this year, the one-legged pirouette.

The 19-year-old from Erfurt also competed in pairs skating, with her partner Rico Haupt. Jessica has been training in figure skating for six years and has reached the third of six levels in her discipline.

At the opening of the Winter Games in her home country on Monday in Oberhof, Jessica lit the Special Olympics flame together with two other athletes.

Ice skating is like flying for me,” says Jessica. Today she flew onto the podium twice: third place for her figure skating and second place in pairs.

She has also inspired another Jessica: our colleague Jessica Triebel, who is a volunteer at the Special Olympics, the games for people with mental and multiple disabilities.

“It’s great to see the commitment and enthusiasm of the athletes here,” says Jessi. “And everyone is happy at the awards ceremony, no matter which place they came in. I take that as an inspiration.”

Start - Games declared open

Fireworks over the town square of Oberhof at the opening of the Special Olympics | Image: SOD, Sarah Rauch

The sky was colorful, the air full of expectation and anticipation – this is how more than 3000 people experienced the opening of the Special Olympics in Oberhof. Around 900 athletes, who will be competing in ten sports at the National Winter Games in Thuringia over the next few days, were there, along with their families, carers, helpers, fans and guests of honor.

The highlight of the festive ceremony: the lighting of the Special Olympics flame by snowshoe runner Tatjana Raible from Baden-Württemberg, dancer Luisa Brauswetter from North Rhine-Westphalia and figure skater Jessika Maul from Thuringia.

And, a goosebump moment: the athletes’ oath, spoken by alpine skier and athlete spokesperson Florian Eichhammer: “I want to win, but if I can’t win, I want to bravely give my best.”

from left to right: Tatjana Raible, Luisa Brauswetter und Jessica Maul light the Special Olympics flame. | Image: SOD, Sarah Rauch

Being there is everything

The biggest inclusive sporting event in Germany this year – and we get to be there.

Ten of our colleagues are working as volunteers to help at figure skating and short track, two of the ten disciplines at the National Winter Games in Thuringia. It is clear to everyone that this is about more than just sport.

The 900 athletes competing in the Special Olympics in Thuringia are people with intellectual disabilities. The Special Olympics Germany describe their mission as “gaining more recognition, self-confidence and ultimately more participation in society” through sport.

So, it’s all about inclusion. And, above all, about being there – for the athletes, their coaches and families and all the volunteers.

IAV is proud to be one of the “Friends of the Game” of the Special Olympics. We are looking forward to hearing the impressions of our colleagues.

The Special Olympics is the world’s largest sports movement for people with intellectual and multiple disabilities. Eunice Kennedy-Shriver, a sister of former US President John F. Kennedy, founded the Special Olympics in 1968. The German association was registered in 1991 and the Thuringia regional association, host of the 2024 National Winter Games, in 2004. More than five million athletes in 174 countries around the world are active in the Special Olympics.