Nearly 2,700 athletes from 105 nations descended upon the Austrian cities of Schladming, Ramsau and Graz to compete in the Special Olympics World Winter Games, which concluded Friday.
The athletes, including nearly 200 from the United States, competed in the sports of skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, figure skating, speed skating, floor hockey and floor ball. But they did more than bring home medals. They showed, on a world stage, the power of acceptance, inclusion and, as the Special Olympics oath states, "being brave in the attempt."
Race to the finish Gold medalist Meryem Moussa of Morocco passes Maryam Alzaabi of the United Arab Emirates in the final stretch of the 50-meter snowshoeing finals at the ski jumping stadium in Ramsau. Jakob Michael Berr for ESPN Irish eyes are smiling Irish alpine skier Caolan McConville, 14, reacts after receiving his silver medal in the giant slalom. McConville, who trains on a synthetic hill in Northern Ireland, skied on snow for the first time during a training camp in Schladming in January. Jakob Michael Berr for ESPN The cold seat Law enforcement officers from around Europe dive into a freezing pool during the Schladming Splash polar plunge fundraiser. The team, dubbed "Herman's dream team," raised $36,000 for Special Olympics. The Schladming Splash raised $350,000. Jakob Michael Berr for ESPN Best foot forward U.S. cross-country skier Joe Kaczynski extends his lead during the 5K finals in Ramsau, a race the Midland, Michigan, skier would go on to win. Jakob Michael Berr for ESPN Game faces Five members of the Bharat (India) floor hockey team prepare to compete against Sweden at the Stadthalle Convention Center in Graz. Jakob Michael Berr for ESPN Quick on their feet The Costa Rican floor hockey team runs through warm-up drills before its game against Canada East at the Stadthalle Convention Center in Graz. Jakob Michael Berr for ESPN Throw your hands in the air U.S. snowboarder Robert Miller drops to his knees to celebrate his finish in the Unified snowboarding giant slalom race. Special Olympics Unified Sports pairs people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team. Jakob Michael Berr for ESPN The support system The friends and family sections, including the U.S. contingent at the giant slalom finals in Rohrmoos, were packed throughout the week. Jakob Michael Berr for ESPN A great comeback Dean Paynter of Oklahoma City greets his son, Chris, after Chris' second run of the giant slalom finals. After a tough day of pre-competition runs, Chris went on to win, his first World Games medal since he competed in Anchorage in 2001. Jakob Michael Berr for ESPN The sky is the limit Over 15,000 people attended Friday's closing ceremonies at the Merkur Arena in Graz. Jakob Michael Berr for ESPN The grand finale
After the closing ceremonies ended, two dancers broke out in a spontaneous dance-off. Their names are Felix Ropper and Michaela Kortus -- from the dance company "Ich bin ok" ("I'm OK"). They're engaged to be married in 2023 (yes, six years from now). Jakob Michael Berr for ESPN