The University of Florida Unified Flag Football Team — known as the Alachua All-Stars — has been chosen to represent Team Florida at the 2022 USA Special Olympics Games in Orlando.
University of Florida Athletic Director Scott Stricklin surprised the team with the news on Monday evening.
The achievement marks significant progress for both the team and the university’s recent involvement with the Special Olympics. The team consists of six Alachua County Special Olympics Athletes and six unified partners from UF.
The Unified Flag Football Team was the first Special Olympics team to be established at the University of Florida in October 2015. The University of Florida is now a Special Olympics College and features sports of basketball and soccer in addition to the flag football team.
Before its selection this month, the university also became the first winners of the Special Olympics Virtual National Championships in April.
The 2022 Special Olympics USA Games will host more than 5,500 athletes and coaches from all 50 states and the Caribbean starting June 5 and ending June 12. The USA Special Olympics Games website also states that the event will host about 125,000 spectators.
In similar style to the FIFA World Cup, the Special Olympics USA Games are hosted once every four years. The USA Games are exclusive to the United States and the Caribbean and are separate from the Special Olympics World Games, which alter every two years between the Winter and Summer Games.
The 2022 Games in Orlando show growth from the previous Special Olympics USA Games. The 2018 Special Olympics USA Games, which took place in Seattle, Washington, featured 4,000 athletes and coaches and 14 sports. The 2022 Games is projected to feature 5 more sports and a 1,500 increase in athletes and coaches.
The new sports featured in next year’s games include surfing, softball, equestrian and cheerleading. The games will also feature the triathlon event for the second time.