The Special Olympics USA National Team made a stop in San Diego Tuesday en route to the 2015 Special Olympics World Games.
On the way to the World Games in Los Angeles, more than 480 Special Olympics athletes and coaches dropped by the USO Neil Ash Airport Center at the San Diego International Airport.
While taking a brief break from their travels, the athletes also took the time to meet members of the military and their families.
Amie Dugan, Director of Marketing for the Special Olympics, told NBC 7 the athletes passing through San Diego have their eyes on the prize and have been preparing for the World Games for a long time.
“These athletes are like any other athlete. They’ve been training for months, if not years, to make it to the world stage to compete and show the world what they’re capable of,” said Dugan. “It’s hard work. They’ve earned the right to be here and the competition is going to be fierce. They definitely want to bring home the gold.”
Team USA athlete Alisa Hazelett, of Indiana, will compete in bowling at the World Games. She told NBC 7 she bowls regularly at home with her mom as her main partner.
“Hopefully I can do really good and get gold,” Hazelett said, adding that it's really cool to meet other Special Olympics athletes at events like the visit to San Diego Thursday.
Kendrick Uebbert, from Westpoint, Neb., also said he has his sights set on gold in the powerlifting competition. At home, Uebbert trains several times a week in powerlifting and deadlifting.
"I’m here to win. Team USA baby, all the way,” Uebbert told NBC 7.
The 2015 Special Olympics World Games begins Saturday and runs through Aug. 2. More than 6,500 athletes – accompanied by 2,000 coaches – from 165 countries will compete across 25 different sports at venues throughout Los Angeles, including UC Los Angeles (UCLA) and University of Southern California (USC).
Organizers expect 500,000 spectators throughout the week-long sporting event, which will be orchestrated with the help of 30,000 volunteers.
Organizers say approximately 100 “Host Towns” will help welcome the Special Olympics World Games athletes from all over the globe to Southern California in the three days leading up to the Wold Games, giving them a taste of the local culture, recreation and entertainment.
In San Diego County, communities partaking in the Host Town program include: Chula Vista; Clairemont; Coronado; Del Mar; El Cajon; Encinitas; La Jolla; National City; Point Loma; Poway; Rancho Santa Fe; Solana Beach; and University City.