Bobbi Jean Schneider has been a Special Olympics athlete for more than 15 years. She has traveled around the nation and participated in many events, including basketball, softball, floor hockey and bowling. This September, Schneider, along with five other athletes, will represent Arizona as part of Team USA in the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghai, China, from October 2-11. The Special Olympics World Summer Games unites athletes with intellectual disabilities through sports and provides them with the opportunity to work together. Some 399 athletes will represent Team USA at this year's games; an expected 3 million spectators will attend, with more watching on television. To find out more, visit specialolympics.org.

How did you get involved with Special Olympics?

I was living in Flagstaff, and a friend mentioned it. I liked to play sports, so I wanted to do it.

What sports do you play?

I play basketball, softball, bocce ball, volleyball and track and field.

Tell me about bocce ball.

It's kind of like bowling. You throw a little ball, and then you have to throw a big ball and try to get it as close as you can to the little one. It's really fun.

What is your favorite sport?

Probably basketball. I've been playing for 15 years, which is how long I have been doing Special Olympics.

Where have you traveled for Special Olympics?

I went to New Haven, Conn., in 1995 for the World Games. I competed in volleyball. Last summer, in July, I went to Iowa for the National Games.

Wow! So you are a serious athlete. When you compete, do you compete on teams?

Yeah, I have teammates. It is fun to be with people who like the sports I do.

What events are you going to participate in when in China?

I am going to participate in the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash and the four-by-100 meter relay.

That is a lot of running! Have you been training?

I have been walking and riding my bike to Fry's, where I work. In July, Team USA met in Nashville, Tenn., and we trained at a camp. We had a practice track meet, which helped. I got to meet all the athletes and coaches going to China.

Are you nervous about being on TV?

A little bit.

What are you most looking forward to seeing in China?

I don't even know what's over there! There are a lot of things to do for the athletes. We will have dances, dinners and sightseeing.

Do you dance?


You were voted Most Inspirational Athlete in 2005 for basketball and cheerleading. What was that like?

Yeah, I got picked because I cheer on my teammates. If we are losing, I tell them it is OK and to keep going.

What is the most important part of Special Olympics for you?

I like meeting new friends. Learning to get along with each other and learning to work as a team is important, too.

For people who are interested in participating in Special Olympics, what kind of advice would you give?

To have fun, and you will meet new friends. There are many sports to get involved with, too.

What has been your most memorable moment with Special Olympics so far?

I like making friends. One of my best friends is a coach for Special Olympics. Her name is Jackie Schroeder, and she was my coach when I lived in Flagstaff. She inspires me the most.

How so?

She encourages me to keep going and keep trying. She was named Coach of the Year at the coaches' conference this year.

What do you hope to accomplish in the future, especially after having participated in the World Games?

I want to try different sports--as many as I can. I'll be in a league after the games where I can try bowling in the fall, basketball in the winter and then track and field and floor hockey. We compete against other teams in Arizona.

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