Bret Giebel: Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi

In March 2019 Pleasant View’s Bret Giebel had the incredible opportunity to represent Utah and the U.S.A. by competing in the Special Olympics World Summer Games in the sport of swimming, hosted in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Bret was one out of two athletes invited to compete from Utah in the Games. Ryan Dilg, his teammate and friend from Willard, was selected to compete in track.

Special Olympics got its start back in the 1960s by Special Olympics founder, Eunice Kennedy Shriver. She had a sister who had an intellectual disability (ID) and witnessed first-hand how limited her sister’s opportunities were to contribute her skills and talents to be an integral part of society. This was the motivating force behind the now worldwide movement of the inclusion revolution. She realized what a transformative platform sports could be in the lives of people with ID to help them learn athletic and leadership skills, gain confidence, and find inclusion, acceptance, and joy. What started as a summer camp in Shriver’s backyard has now become a global Special Olympics program involving more than five million people in the world with intellectual disabilities.

The SO Summer World Games are held every four years. 2019s Games were the largest in history with 7,500 athletes participating from 190 countries in 24 sports. Abu Dhabi calls people with ID people of determination. Our family was an eyewitness of this awesome determination and power of the human spirit as we were able to watch the various events and competitions held in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and gain an appreciation of all different abilities. We learned that many had overcome significant obstacles to be a part of these Games. These stories touched our hearts and helped us realize that going through trials can make us stronger and inspire others, especially when there are amazing people, supports, and programs like Special Olympics in place. How grateful we are for this movement and all of its incredible staff, coaches, and volunteers.

Bret has been a part of Special Olympics Utah for three years, competing in Unified Track at Weber High and on the Golden Spikers SO Swim Team in Brigham City. He was also on the Weber High Swim Team throughout high school. When asked what Bret loves most about Special Olympics he said: “It’s not about getting the medals, it’s about having fun with my teammates, making new friends, and being able to participate in sports.” He trained hard, achieving three personal best times and came home with some unforgettable memories, new friendships, and even some medals. Bret won a silver medal in the 200m free and a bronze medal in the 100m free. He earned a 4th place ribbon in the 100m fly and a participation ribbon in the medley relay.

Eunice Shriver initiated the athlete oath in 1968 at the first SO Games which has subsequently began each SO event. The oath states, “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” Ancient Roman gladiators would say this when they entered the arena. We saw many examples of bravery at the Games. We beheld unbridled joy at just being able to compete and to finish. We witnessed sportsmanship at its finest. We saw resilience when things didn’t go as planned. Bret’s relay made national news as ABC shared the story of his goggles coming off on his start, resulting in a hard hit on the wall and then a disoriented turn that disqualified their relay. He and his teammates courageously finished their legs of the relay strong. Although disappointed, since they were favored to win with their first place standing in preliminaries, their team rebounded with great success their next day, including Bret’s third place and personal best time in the100m free. We are so proud of him, not only for his experiences at the World Games, but for all that he’s taught us about living with hope, love, joy, and determination.

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