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International Inclusion Warriors Return Home from World Games

SOMI Delegation at World Games in Berlin (L to R: Bo Parker, Randy Coleman, Jessica Duvall, Lawrence Robuste)

Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023 have come and gone, but for the Michigan members representing Special Olympics USA (SO USA), the memories will not soon fade.

Ypsilanti-based athletics athlete, Lawrence Robuste, held his own on the track, competing in the 100M, 200M, and 400M relay during his first trip abroad. The 18-year-old is returning home with a new sense of confidence following his time in Berlin, something his mom, Vanessa, credits to the camaraderie formed among his SO USA teammates. “It’s been exciting to see his joy,” Vanessa explained. “Representing SOMI as a runner has made him so happy. I am proud of him.”

A natural performer, 28-year-old Jessica Duvall, shined bright on the international stage. The gymnast returns home to Lansing with a bronze medal for her ribbon routine in Berlin and had a strong showing in her hoop and club routines. The Michigander was a fan favorite on the mat, recognized for her skill, supportive smile, and infectious attitude.  

Jackson Area Director, Randy Coleman, was instrumental in implementing a kayaking program for SOMI athletes throughout the state. His years of hard work paid off when Coleman was tapped by Special Olympics International (SOI) to serve as Head Coach for the SO USA Kayaking team at World Games. The team took home seven medals: two gold, four silver, and a bronze. “The success of each of the athletes is a result of their passion, hard work, and coaching from their individual state programs,” Coleman said humbly. “I was just honored to be there cheering them on.”

Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) representatives, like Michigan’s Sean Wheeler, paved the way for delegations on the road to World Games. A member of the Final Leg, Wheeler was one of the elite law enforcement runners to escort the Flame of Hope throughout Germany into Opening Ceremony, where the cauldron was lit to launch the week-long competition. “The last time the Olympic Flame was in Berlin was 1936 when Jesse Owen's was breaking track records and Hitler was in power,” Wheeler said, reflecting on his own history-making moment in Berlin. “It was amazing to see thousands of people line the streets to welcome us, embrace a message of inclusion, and support our athletes.”

Behind the scenes, Special Olympics Michigan Director of Communications & Multimedia, Bo Parker, captured inspirational moments with his camera, traveling with SO USA as a member of the Communications Team. Parker’s natural talent, love for the movement, and creativity captured the spirit of World Games, eternalizing the endless memories made. Photos from World Games can be viewed here along with video content here.