The first-ever Special Olympics DanceSport World Championships were held on August 20, 2021, in a Renaissance castle — Kasematten on the Schlossberg — atop a mountain in the middle of the city of Graz, Austria. The castle’s casements had been converted into a beautiful open-air theater, with a sliding roof. It was a magnificent venue!
The competition began with an entry parade of 80 Special Athletes from 12 countries, escorted by their partners and waving their countries’ flags. Seven other countries had planned to be represented, but couldn’t because of COVID restrictions. After the Parade of Athletes, five world-class judges were introduced and took their places at the stage-front table.
The Special Athletes performed first in the Solos Division, mostly folk dancing and belly dancing, followed by the Duos Division, where the two dancers have a minimal physical connection. Then came the Ballroom Couples Division. The United States was represented by Debi and Simon Van Giessen from the Seattle, Washington area, dancing a smooth, elegant Waltz.