Meet the stars of the 2018 Special Olympics

From basketball and bocce ball to swimming and stand-up paddleboard, we photographed the bright smiles and unstoppable attitudes of this year's USA Games.

The University of Washington had the privilege of hosting the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games at the beginning of July. The weeklong competition, featuring 3,000 athletes from all 50 states, has been called the biggest sporting event at the UW and in the Puget Sound region since the 1990 Goodwill Games.

The best of the best will qualify for the international games, where the organization will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year. “Through sports, our athletes are seeing themselves for their abilities, not disabilities,” says the Special Olympics website. “Their world is opened with acceptance and understanding. They become confident and empowered by their accomplishments.”

Columns Magazine set up a photo booth to capture the bright smiles and unstoppable attitudes of some of this year’s athletes, as well as their coaches and their Unified Sports teammates (Unified Sports is an initiative that pairs up individuals with and without intellectual disabilities).

David George

Track & Field – District of Columbia

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Aidan Ivers
Swimming – Arkansas

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Bowling

Wisconsin Track & Field

Joshua Contreras

Baseball – Florida

Jamal Hughes and Bob Molloy
Track & Field – North Carolina

North Carolina Basketball

Jennifer Ali and Tina Phillips
Bocce Ball – Southern California

Cheerleading

Stephenie Kane
Powerlifter – Rhode Island

Stand-up Paddleboard and Golf

Judy Ryba
Bocce Ball — Washington
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Ohio Basketball

Kelly Arnold

Bowling — Mississippi

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This photo series has also appeared on our Instagram and Twitter. Looking for a photo of an athlete? View and download more images here.

The Columns photo booth received technical and logistical support from the Special Olympics USA Games, Coca Cola North America, ESPN and Unified Sports.