Behind The ScenesSpecial Olympics

At Special Olympics Austria, Dustin Plunkett continues transition from athlete to ESPN commentator

(L-R) Lindsay Czarniak, Kevin Negandhi and Dustin Plunkett on the set of Special Olympics World Winter Games 2017. (Kohjiro Kinno/ESPN Images)
(L-R) Lindsay Czarniak, Kevin Negandhi and Dustin Plunkett on the set of Special Olympics World Winter Games 2017. (Kohjiro Kinno/ESPN Images)
Dustin Plunkett (Kohjiro Kinno/ESPN Images)
Dustin Plunkett
(Kohjiro Kinno/ESPN Images)

Dustin Plunkett is back with ESPN for its coverage of the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games from Austria (6 p.m. ET, ESPN2). In addition to being part of the announcing team for the Opening Ceremony, he is also a contributing reporter to ESPN’s nightly show, Special Olympics World Winter Games 2017. He first joined ESPN in 2015 for the Special Olympics World Summer Games from Los Angeles.

Plunkett shared his thoughts about being part of the ESPN commentary team: “I am so honored and amazed to be back with my ESPN family a second time to cover the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria. In 2015, the most important thing I learned was to let loose and have fun right from the start. To not be nervous.

ESPN colleagues on Dustin Plunkett:

Kevin Neghandi, co-host: “Dustin is a rock star. What impressed me so much was his preparation when we were in L.A. His experience as a former athlete helped us in sharing the stories and experiences with the audience. I mentioned ‘rock star’ because everywhere we went, fans, athletes and families all wanted to talk to him and take pictures. He’s a true role model for the inclusion movement, and I’m honored to call him a colleague.”

Bill Bonnell, producer: “Dustin is the heart and soul of the Special Olympics movement. He can speak to the athletes’ experiences with an authority like no one else. When we did our first Special Olympics broadcast in 2015, he was everyone’s MVP.”

“This time I made sure to get all my excitement and nerves out of my system before the Opening Ceremony on Saturday, so I could better control my emotions and just enjoy it.”

Plunkett’s initial involvement with Special Olympics was as an athlete beginning in 1996, presently participating in softball, soccer, golf, bocce, bowling, tennis and also helping to coach basketball. Currently, he is a Manager of Development and Athlete Leadership at Special Olympics Southern California, a board member for Special Olympics Southern California and serves as a Special Olympics Global Messenger. In addition, Plunkett was part of the LA2015 Organizing Committee.

Plunkett also commented on ESPN’s involvement with Special Olympics: “The significance of having ESPN cover this event, and any Special Olympics event, is huge. It helps create more awareness for Special Olympics and helps our athletes accomplish their goals and chase their dreams. Being on ESPN shows that they truly are athletes and not just people with intellectual disabilities.”

Angela Yang and Paul Melvin contributed to this post.

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