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Meet the Athletes of the ‘Gaming for Inclusion’ Tournament

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A few weeks ago, we were very excited to announce our latest partnership efforts with our friends at Special Olympics: the inaugural Gaming for Inclusion esports experience to showcase the power of inclusion through gaming. The virtual multi-day esports tournament will engage and connect people of all abilities from around the United States.

From September 12-17, Special Olympics athletes and Unified partners will compete in Rocket League, Madden NFL 22, and Forza Motorsport 7 on Xbox for the chance to play alongside celebrity supporters of Special Olympics, including NBA All-Star Jayson Tatum, NFL legend Jamaal Charles, WNBA superstar Jewell Loyd, and WWE Superstars Dominik Mysterio and Ember Moon on September 18. Spectators can live stream the events on the Xbox Twitch channel and the Special Olympics YouTube channel.

Of course, while the games and the experience are great, this tournament is all about bringing together more than 90 Special Olympics athletes for a few days of intense esports competition. With that in mind, we wanted to introduce you to just a few of the athletes competing. We hope you’ll join us in wishing them the best and cheering them on in a few days!


Colton Rice

Where do you live?

I live in Brighton, Colorado.

How long have you been involved in Special Olympics?

I’ve been competing for 9 years.

Which ‘Gaming for Inclusion’ tournament will you be competing in?

I will be competing in the Forza Motorsport 7 tournament.

How long have you been playing that game? And is it one of your favorite games to play?

I’ve been playing Forza games for many years and it’s probably my favorite racing game to play!

‘Gaming for Inclusion’ is just days away. How are you preparing for the tournament?

I’m practicing on different tracks and keep my car pretty basic, no modifications or upgrades.

What tips do you have for people who want to participate in gaming?

Have fun, practice, chat with your opponents in the waiting room and on Discord. It’s important to have good sportsmanship.

Outside of Special Olympics and gaming, what else are you involved in? Do you have any other favorite hobbies or work that you are passionate about?

I like to build, fix, drive and compete with RC trucks. My dad and I go to competitions and I’m a little better driver than my dad. Also, I like working at Ace Hardware. They have me build a lot of things like grills, wheelbarrows, lawnmowers, and stuff.

What is your favorite life mantra or words you live by?

“If you ain’t first, you’re last. Shake & Bake!”

What is your favorite song to get you motivated?

Right now, I really like the song “Shut Up and Drive” by Rihanna

What is your favorite game (be it a sport or video game)?

Soccer is my favorite physical sport and my favorite video game is Forza.

What is your favorite food or go-to meal?

I like a good steak! Another favorite is a cheeseburger with an egg on it.

Why did you decide to participate in ‘Gaming for Inclusion’?

I like to race cars and really like Forza! I think it’ll be fun to meeting others “virtually” that like to do what I do.

What about ‘Gaming for Inclusion’ are you most looking forward to?

Competition and meeting people.

What advice would you give to an aspiring Special Olympics athlete?

Believe in our oath, “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” We don’t have to win but we need to try our hardest and never give up.

Is there anybody you’d like to thank or give a shoutout to?

I’d like to thank Adrian and Rick with Special Olympics Colorado for helping me become involved in esports!


Amber Gertsch

Where do you live?

I live in Farr West, Utah.

How long have you been involved in Special Olympics?

I have been competing in Special Olympics for 25 years.

Which ‘Gaming for Inclusion’ tournament will you be competing in?

For this competition, I will be competing in Rocket League. 

How long have you been playing that game? And is it one of your favorite games to play?

Halo is my game of choice but I have been practicing Rocket League for an hour a day for the last couple weeks.

What tips do you have for people who want to participate in gaming?

I have found that gaming is a great activity to retrain my brain. It also helps with my eye/hand coordination

What is your favorite life mantra or words you live by?

GAMING IS LOTS OF FUN. Inclusion is so important but it is MY responsibility to be INCLUDABLE!    

What is your favorite song to get you motivated?

To motivate me when I practice sports or gaming, I listen to music by the Scandinavian band Wardruna (the war songs get me pumped up and in warrior mode).

What is your favorite game (be it a sport or video game)?

Almost every day, I play Halo online with gamers. 

What is your favorite food or go-to meal?

I don’t eat when I am gaming because I don’t want my controllers to get ‘icky’.

What advice would you give to an aspiring Special Olympics athlete?

To other athletes who may want to be a part of gaming, I say “Go out there and TRY! Remember the Special Olympics Athlete Oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Is there anybody you’d like to thank or give a shoutout to?

My mom is my greatest hero. She taught me that the only losers are those who don’t try. THANKS MOM… YOU ARE THE BEST!! Special thanks to my patient family members who have taught and encouraged me. Thanks to David Reed who really ‘pushed’ me to compete in  Special Olympics gaming competitions.


Jose Moreno

Where do you live?

Bensenville, Illinois

How long have you been involved in Special Olympics?:

I’ve been competing for 12 years.

Which ‘Gaming for Inclusion’ tournament will you be competing in?

Madden NFL 22.

How long have you been playing that game? And is it one of your favorite games to play?

For 6 years, Madden has been one of my favorite games to play and I love to play with the Chicago Bears.

‘Gaming for Inclusion’ is just days away. How are you preparing for the tournament?:

The way I’m preparing for the tournament is that I wake up at 8 a.m. and start playing on Xbox Live with other people across the world on Madden. I have been doing this for the last 3 weeks.

Why are you excited about playing in the ‘Gaming for Inclusion’ tournament?

The love of competition and playing with other people from across the country in Special Olympics esports. Also, contributing to a team and practicing a lot and just having fun playing the video games that you love with your teammates and friends.

Outside of Special Olympics and gaming, what else are you involved in? Do you have any other favorite hobbies or work that you are passionate about?

I love watching movies, and my favorite actor is Adam Sandler. I enjoy playing board games with my family members. My favorite board game is Monopoly. I host my own trivia game show for Special Olympics athletes on my own platform called LIVE WITH JOSE TV on Facebook Live.

And I also produce other shows on my platform with other Special Olympics athletes from across the country. We have different athletes from Maryland, Kansas, Illinois, and Michigan and we also play with different police officers from across the country on the trivia game show. It’s inclusive so anybody can play with athletes and myself.

What is your favorite life mantra or words you live by?

“Always be yourself. Have fun and always smile because a smile brings happiness to a person.”

What is your favorite song to get you motivated?

“Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor and “Gasolina” by Daddy Yankee

What is your favorite game (be it a sport or video game)?

My favorite game would have to be GoldenEye on Nintendo 64. I also love playing Mario Kart, Super Mario Brothers, Madden, and NBA 2K.

And my favorite sport would have to be Unified bocce ball because I get to compete with my brother, who is my Unified partner. We just qualified for next year’s Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games with a gold medal at regionals.

What is your favorite food or go-to meal?

My favorite food would have to be Filet-O-Fish from McDonald’s and my other favorite food would have to be my mother’s meatloaf.

Why did you decide to participate in ‘Gaming for Inclusion’?

The reason I decided to participate in ‘Gaming for Inclusion’ is because you can participate with a Unified partner and make everybody included.

What about ‘Gaming for Inclusion’ are you most looking forward to?

I am most looking forward to playing against people from across the country, because it brings athletes together and you get to meet a lot of different athletes from different parts of the country. You’re playing esports and having fun.

What advice would you give to an aspiring Special Olympics athlete?

The advice I would give a Special Olympics athlete is that you can do anything that you put mind to.

 Is there anybody you’d like to thank or give a shoutout to?

Shoutout to Special Olympics Illinois esports and my family. And I would love to give a big thank you to Microsoft for everything that you do for Special Olympics athletes across the country and the world. We really appreciate it, so thank you.

Related:
Xbox Partners with Special Olympics for the Inaugural Gaming for Inclusion Esports Tournament
Announcing 2020 Special Olympics Xbox Virtual Gaming Event
First-Ever Xbox Gaming Tournament Hosted at 2018 Special Olympic USA Games

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