Local Special Olympics coach prepares for World Games in Abu Dhabi

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -- A 313-member delegation from the United States will be traveling to Abu Dhabi and Dubai, to represent our country in the Special Olympics World Games.

For 30 years, Tomahawk native Bonnie Kahn has coached Special Olympics athletes in track and field.

"Special Olympics has changed over the years, it used to be completely different. It was just a feel-good and hugs, but we have some phenomenal athletes," said Kahn, an Assistant Track Coach with Special Olympics USA.

Now, she's representing Wisconsin and the United States in the 2019 Special Olympics Summer World Games.

"It's such an honor to represent the United States, it instills a patriotism I didn't know I had. But at the same time, I feel I'm representing Wisconsin, and in turn I'm representing Tomahawk," said Kahn.

The World Games will take place in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and this isn't her first experience coaching overseas.

"I was in two Summer World Games; I was in Greece and also in LA. And then five Winter World Games; Alaska, Japan, Idaho, South Korea and the last one was Austria," she said.

She said the entire experience, from start to finish, is huge not only for the athletes but anyone who is able to be a part of the games.

"It's very emotional, it's very moving. My goal is to always help bring the athletes to their fullest, that they compete at the best level that they can possibly be," said Kahn. "They put it all out there. Not that our high school athletes and college athletes don't, but there's a pureness to it that you don't find all the time. That keeps me coming back."

Special Olympics USA is sending 313 delegates next year, and athletes will compete in 18 of the 24 sports offered.

"Opening ceremonies, we always say 'if they don't make you cry they're not good,'" she said.

She added that the USA will be one of about 170 countries represented.

"The unity, and the bonding that they do with other countries, just to see that and to see them grow, not just as athletes but as people. I mean it happens to the coaches, too, we all change. You don't come back from the World Games the same," said Kahn.

Changing and growing, with Special Olympics athletes that forever change her life.

"I get so much from doing it. Goes right to my heart, I wouldn't trade it for the world and as long as they keep selecting me, I'll keep going. It's been a phenomenal part of my life," she said.

Eight Wisconsinites will be on Special Olympics USA, including two other track and field coaches from Neillsville and Nekoosa.

For more information on the upcoming games, click here.