National Girls & Women in Sports Day

On National Girls & Women in Sports Day – February 7 – we celebrate the achievements of two athletes who have been smashing misconceptions and breaking barriers.

Marion County’s Adrienne Bunn and Pasco County’s Marlynne Stutzman are Special Olympics triathletes who made history last year with a series of record-setting performances. After training for months, Marlynne and Adrienne competed in the World IRONMAN Championship in Kona, Hawaii.

Kona is one of the toughest races on earth, challenging athletes to complete a 2.4-mile open-water swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run.

Adrienne captured first in her division – with a time of 12:41:18 seconds -- becoming the youngest person with autism to complete the race. Marlynne finished one minute later and became the first person with autism to complete an IRONMAN and run the Boston Marathon. Both young women also won medals at the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games.

In recognition of their achievements, Marlynne was named a Community Hero by the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Adrienne was chosen as the Special Olympics Female Athlete of the Year by the Big 12 Conference.

Of course, it’s not just Special Olympics women athletes making their mark on the world of sports and beyond.

The Special Olympics movement was founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, a woman who demanded that people with intellectual disabilities be treated with dignity and given the opportunities they deserve. In the Sunshine State, her vision is championed by Sherry Wheelock, president and CEO of Special Olympics Florida since 2012.

Under Wheelock’s leadership, the number of athletes served by Special Olympics Florida has more than doubled and now approaches 70,000 annually. Opportunities to compete have exploded as well, giving athletes like Adrienne and Marlynne the chance to show the world just how remarkable Special Olympics athletes can be.