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The spirit of an athlete can live in everyone

Published: March 1, 2017 12:00 AM

Whether you're an Olympian, a professional or a weekend warrior, you likely aspire to be the best you can be when presented with a challenge. To achieve greatness, all athletes, regardless of the level of competition, rely on others. These people are coaches, trainers, nutritionists, teammates, family, friends, mentors and heroes. That list can also include those who inspire and support anyone who tries to be better.

Take, for example, Special Olympics, a global movement that empowers people with intellectual disabilities. The Special Olympics movement has grown to more than 5.3 million athletes and unified partners in 169 countries. With the support of more than a million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers 32 Olympic-type sports and over 108,000 games and competitions throughout the year.

Many inspirational stories come out of Special Olympics. One such story is that of Dustin Plunkett, of Paramount, Calif. Plunkett, a 20-year veteran of Special Olympics Southern California, has shared a stage with professional athletes such as Yao Ming, as well as professional sports commentators at ESPN. However, it didn't come easily for Plunkett to get to where he is. Born with a cleft palate and an intellectual disability, he had a tough family life. His parents, struggling to handle him, turned him over to relatives. Thus began a tumultuous childhood of being shuffled around from one relative to another, none of them quite sure how to care for him. School life was even worse, where he was bullied daily. Then he was introduced to something life changing: Special Olympics. He thrived through training and competing in sports and became a leader and a voice for all individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Inspired by this type of dedication to health, fitness and competition, Herbalife Nutrition created a $1 million sponsorship of Special Olympics to support the organization, focusing on physical fitness. Leveraging its global team of more than 300 staff scientists and 36 Ph.D.s specializing in nutrition and sports performance, the company has lent expertise and educational content including videos and other materials to coaches, athletes, caregivers and the broader Special Olympics community.

"Our mission is to bring nutrition to people around the world and to provide support to those seeking to embrace a healthy, active lifestyle," said Dana Ryan, Ph.D., Herbalife senior manager of Sports Performance and Education.

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As part of the sponsorship, Ryan joined Special Olympics Global Fitness Task Force to bring additional perspective and expertise to support Special Olympics athletes, coaches and families. The Global Fitness Task Force is an international committee of fitness experts and athletes collaborating to improve Special Olympics athlete sport performance and health through the vehicle of fitness.

Having provided volunteer, product and financial support for the Special Olympics Southern California Fall Games, Herbalife Nutrition looks forward to supporting the athletes and teams preparing for Special Olympics World Winter Games taking place in March 2017 in Austria. Austria will welcome almost 3,000 Special Olympics athletes from 110 nations to compete in nine Olympic-type winter sports.

For further facts on Special Olympics, go to SpecialOlympics.org.


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