Israeli athletes who participated in the Special Olympics in Los Angeles in July will return to the Holy Land on Tuesday proud of their impressive achievements, after having won a whopping 62 medals in various competitions.

Thousands of athletes who gathered from around the globe said goodbye to Los Angeles on Sunday in an emotional closing ceremony for the Special Olympics marked by cheers, tears and pride.

After more than a week of games, athletes from more than 160 countries gathered in chairs on the field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to receive applause and praise for their efforts. Placards from their national delegations were brought in along a giant red carpet.

Some 6,500 athletes took part in contests ranging from weightlifting to soccer. Although not everyone won gold, silver or bronze medals, every competitor received a performance ribbon and a chance to take to the victory stand following their competition. An estimated 500,000 people turned out to watch at venues in and around Los Angeles.

Israeli athletes who participated in the Special Olympics will return to the Holy Land on Tuesday proud of their impressive achievements, after having won a whopping 62 medals in various competitions.

The sportsmen and women came home with 25 gold medals, 18 silver and 19 bronze.

Competitions were held in 25 sports, including weightlifting, horseback riding, swimming and soccer.

Athletics was the delegation’s most successful sport, with the Israelis winning 12 medals in the different competitions – one gold, six silver and five bronze.

A Twitter posting from Los Angeles police headquarters thanked all the athletes “for inspiring us & showing what true strength is.”

“These Games have been life-changing and we hope that this will only be a spark that will light the world on fire with the enthusiasm, courage and acceptance and inclusion for all people with intellectual disabilities,” said Patrick McClenahan, president and chief executive of the games’ organizing committee.

The colorful Special Olympics flag was lowered and presented to a delegation from Austria, where the Winter Games will be held in 2017.

The Special Olympics, which began in 1968, was the brainchild of then-US President John Kennedy’s sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver, aimed at empowering people with intellectual disabilities to become accepted and valued members of their communities, which leads to a more respectful and inclusive society for all.

Organizers say this year’s Special Olympics will be the largest sports and humanitarian event in the world in 2015.

By: United with Israel Staff and AP

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