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SportsCenter’s Victoria Arlen Reports From Special Olympics, An Event She First Covered As An ESPN Rookie In 2015

"Special Olympics means so much to me. As someone who has had to overcome challenges, I know firsthand the power of inclusion and celebrating what you can do versus what you cannot"

This week, ESPN and ABC are presenting coverage of the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games Orlando at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The Games, which run through Sunday, June 12, have brought together more than 5,500 athletes and coaches from all 50 states and the Caribbean for a multi-day display of athletic achievement and competition.

ESPN is proud to be both the global broadcast partner for all Special Olympics World Games and USA Games and the global presenting sponsor of Special Olympics Unified Sports.

As part of this week’s coverage, SportsCenter anchor Victoria Arlen is reporting from the Games. In 2015, Arlen – a 2012 Paralympian gold medalist swimmer – made her ESPN television debut as a features venue reporter at the 2015 Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles. She reflects on returning to report on Special Olympics Games seven years later.

How does it feel to cover Special Olympics again?
My goodness, it’s been an incredible journey since then. It honestly feels surreal at times. Seven years ago, I never would imagine the ESPN journey that would transpire and continues to blow my mind daily. As I was wrapping up SportsCenter AM before I was leaving for Orlando, it kind of all hit me.

[In 2015] I was 20 years old, in a wheelchair, and had a passion to tell stories that would inspire and leave an impact. [Producers] Kate Jackson and Bill Bonnell took a chance on me, and I’m forever thankful. It’s been such an incredible ride since then.

I’ve gone from reporter to a SportsCenter anchor, and to be putting my reporting hat back on this week – at an event like this – it’s just epic! I’m so grateful and excited to be back covering Special Olympics and being a part of a team that gives a voice to many incredible athletes, the Special Olympics movement, and sharing the power of love, inclusion, and positivity.

What is one of the most inspirational moments you’ve seen this week?
Special Olympics means so much to me. As someone who has had to overcome challenges, I know firsthand the power of inclusion and celebrating what you can do versus what you cannot.

Honestly, it is really hard to choose just one moment, but every day there is moment after moment of not only incredible athletic achievement but also athletes competing on a massive stage and defying the odds.

What I love the most is being able to spend time with athletes and their coaches and families. The stories, the odds they’ve overcome, and the power of love, inclusion, and positivity. It’s a great reminder for us all.

Victoria Arlen (L) interviews participants during ESPN’s Special Olympics Executive Unified Challenge during the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games.(Scott Clarke/ESPN Images)

But if I had to choose one, it would be when I interviewed Andrew Peterson and Romano Rittenhour for Team Indiana; throughout their entire race, they pushed and cheered on one another.

Afterward, they just had such pride and excitement for how they did. To see the sportsmanship and love between these two was just one of so many moments that inspired me.

I’d say almost every other minute out on the track, there is a moment or several moments of inspiration. There is nothing like the Special Olympics! I honestly pinch myself that I get to be a part of this.

What was it like covering ESPN’s Special Olympics Executive Unified Challenge Monday night?
It was so much fun to be able to cover the Special Olympics Executive Unified Challenge; holy moly, it was amazing! The competition was intense! I got to be a part of this event back in 2018 in Seattle and won with my team. So it was fun to switch roles and be on the reporter side of things.

Arlen video thumbnail: Phil Ellsworth/ESPN Images

From 2017: Arlen’s journey

Victoria Arlen (L) co-anchors an edition of SportsCenter with Randy Scott. (Courtesy of Victoria Arlen’s Instagram feed/ESPN)
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