Joy MacLeod representing Special Olympics Colorado at World Games in Austria

Three Special Olympics athletes from Wisconsin are overseas right now, getting set to compete in the 2017 World Winter Games.

Against the rain, the opening ceremony became a spectacular show at the small town Schladming of the Styria state, as the stadium was turned into a visual dream land for the audience in the celebration of life and happiness.

Zahaiko has been involved with Special Olympics for the past 24 years, starting while in junior high school.

The Winter Games feature 2,700 Special Olympians from 107 countries.

She's in Austria now to compete in this year's world competition.

Madison Englund is at the top of her game.

It signals the commencement of competition at the event, where more than 2,500 athletes are participating.

She'll begin the day at her favorite coffee shop - Blackbird Bakery in Winslow - for one last taste of home before wrangling her pack of luggage over to the ferry and eventually to SeaTac, where that grand excursion will begin in earnest. "The whole family says if we bottled her enthusiasm, we'd make a fortune".

"It's a mix of emotions", she said Friday, sitting near her luggage, crammed full of uniforms, jackets, boots and hats. "Meeting new people." said another athlete, Bryce Myers. The upcoming 2017 World Games will be his first experience at a Special Olympics World Games.

"Rachel was a very quiet person, but this has helped her develop a confidence she didn't have before", he said.

"It's really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity", her dad said.

  • Leroy Wright