Name: Mati Oren
Known for: Oren is one of 40 Israeli Special Olympians preparing to represent the country at the 2015 Summer Games in Los Angeles.
About him: Mati Oren was born on a kibbutz near Nazareth, where he has lived his whole life. He was born with severe medical problems, which required him to have eight surgeries before he was 4 years old. Though he was physically healed, Oren was then diagnosed with developmental and cognitive disabilities.
When he was 5, Oren began attending a special school in Haifa. Each year, the students would come to his kibbutz for a pool party, and the school staff quickly noticed Oren's natural talent in the water. They encouraged his parents to sign him up for the Special Olympics. By the time he was 12, Oren was attending weekly training sessions at the Wingate Institute, Israel’s National Center for Physical Education and Sport.
In 2000, Oren swam in his first European Special Olympics regional competition, held in Holland, where he won three golds and one silver medal. He went on to compete in the 2007 Summer Games in Shanghai and the 2011 Athens Games, where he switched to open-water swimming from pool swimming. He medaled in both competitions. The 2015 Games will be his fourth time competing in the Special Olympics.
In addition to swimming, Oren also works as a lifeguard on his kibbutz. He also enjoys playing soccer and riding bikes, but nothing compares to his love for swimming.
"Swimming is part of who I am," he said. "I plan to swim forever."