Dublin Games
Ireland Kicks Off 11th Special Olympics World Summer Games
By Karen Fanning

Fireworks over the opening ceremonies in Dublin, Ireland. It was the biggest opening ceremony ever—and a showcase of Irish talent from River Dance to U2 to the Corrs. (Photo: A. J. Hellickson)
June 19—As she counts down the days until the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games, Vanessa Peters is looking forward to meeting other athletes from around the globe. But when the eighth-grader finally steps onto the field to take on the standing long jump in Dublin, Ireland, her thoughts will be trained on a single goal.

"I'll be focusing on how far I can jump," says the 14-year-old from Murfreesboro, North Carolina.

Vanessa is one of 7,000 Special Olympians who will gather on the Emerald Isle on June 21 for the weeklong competition. This year's event marks the first time the World Summer Games are being held outside the United States. With more than 160 countries participating, athletes will travel from as far as Uganda, Bolivia, and Australia to show off their athletic skills in 21 sports.

Athletes must be at least 8 years old to compete. Unlike the Paralympics, which provide sports opportunities for top athletes with physical handicaps, the Games give individuals with mental disabilities the chance to compete.

After three years of training, Vanessa hopes that all of her hard work will pay off in Dublin. When she finally gets to step onto the world stage, Vanessa's competitive juices will be flowing.

"I want to do my best," she says. "And I also want to win."