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Special Olympics A different Swiss national football team

These are not the Paralympics, they are the other Olympic Games for athletes who are different. From July 24 to August 2, Los Angeles will host the Special Olympics, in which more than 7,000 mentally handicapped athletes from 177 countries will participate, including the Swiss women’s football team.

The movement began in the United States in the 1960s. Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the sister of John and Robert Kennedy, founded the organisation after being touched by the tragic fate of their sister, Rosemary, who had become mentally handicapped following a lobotomy. She began by organising sports camps for the handicapped and in 1968 convened the first Special Olympics in Chicago. More than 1,000 US and Canadian athletes competed in swimming, track and field and floor hockey.

The movement came to Switzerland 20 years later, with the first national delegation participating in the Minneapolis Games in 1991. This year, in Los Angeles, at least 70 Swiss athletes will participate in 12 sports, including track and field, cycling, swimming and football.

Ten women, aged 24-38, make up the Swiss football team. But before hitting the pitch in the US, the team met in the small village of Fislisbach, canton Aargau, for a sports weekend.

(Photos and text: Stephanie Borcard, Nicolas Metraux)

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