Dozens from Arizona competing in Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando

Posted at 8:30 AM, Jun 07, 2022

PHOENIX — More than 115 athletes are representing Special Olympics Arizona at the 2022 USA Games in Orlando this week.

The athletes are participating in 10 sports: athletics, unified basketball, bocce, cheer, flag football, golf, powerlifting, swimming, volleyball, and — for the first time ever — stand-up paddleboarding.

Mom and son duo Noelle and William Horten from Mesa are entering the water sport.

William is new to stand-up paddleboarding, but mom Noelle said he quickly found his talent with it.

She said William loves sports and is athletic, but the pandemic didn't allow him to play most of the sports he was used to. So, they found something new.

"We started as a family we would go out paddle boarding and kayaking and he just hopped right on that paddle board, and he was just a natural at it and he loves it," Noelle said.

She took on the task of coaching her son as they aim for gold at the USA Games.

"I did a lot of research," Noelle said. "We did a lot of reading, a lot of Googling on coaching, and we also had reached out to Riverbound Sports."

Riverbound Sports Paddle Company owner Teri Carlin was one of several from her shop who helped the Hortens in their endeavor.

"He's a very powerful paddler," Carlin said. "He's an awesome kid."

Together, they're all putting stand-up paddleboarding on the map for Team AZ.

The sport requires a lot of core strength and a lot of balance.

"As a Special Olympics athlete, that can be hard and especially with sensory issues and the water and things like that. He just did so amazing and we are so proud of him," Noelle said.

There are more than 5,500 athletes and coaches from around the country competing in the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games.

They will run from June 5-12.

For a complete list of all sports and athletes who will be competing in Orlando visit this website.