Four years ago, Andrés Delgado won five medals – three gold, one silver and one bronze – at the Special Olympics World Games in Athens as his teammates, fans and Coca-Cola colleagues cheered him on.

Last week, the Coca-Cola Venezuela mail coordinator returned the favor when he traveled to Los Angeles to root for his fellow athletes at the 2015 Special Olympics World Games. Andrés qualified again to compete in his primary event, artistic gymnastics, but a technicality kept him on the sidelines.

“Not every country gets a spot for every sport,” explains his aunt, Ana, who lives in Bakersfield, Calif. “But Andrés still wanted to come here to support his friends and be part of the experience in Los Angeles." 

On July 25, Andrés attended a special Coca-Cola reception in Los Angeles, where he reconnected with his colleagues, including Chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent. 

“I was excited to see him because the last time I saw him was in Atlanta in 2011,” Andrés tells me via phone, referring to his trip to Coke headquarters to celebrate his performance in Athens.

Andres Delgado
Andrés trains in artistic gymnastics at least twice a week, in addition to working at Coca-Cola and attending school.

Sports have been part Andrés’ life since he was a young boy. At only five months old, he started swimming classes in the United States, where he was born and lived as a child. He quickly developed into a gifted and versatile athlete and won several gold medals in Special Olympics competitions. He later picked up karate, earning a blue belt.

When he moved to Venezuela at age 2, Andrés fell in love with ice skating and eventually ranked in the top 10 nationally. He even won two bronze medals in weightlifting at the 2003 Special Olympics World Games in Ireland, and works with a wrestling coach. His main focus, however, is artistic gymnastics, a challenging discipline combining strength, flexibility and creativity.

Andres Delgado
Andrés with his mom, Olga, and Muhtar Kent

Olga Delgado says a regular day for her son – Andrés Guillermo, as she calls him – includes going to work at Coke's Caracas offices in the mornings, taking classes three afternoons a week and training twice a week in the evening. In addition to sports, Andrés is an avid reader and student of Greek mythology and Venezuelan history. He’s also a huge fan of Michael Jackson, or the “King of Pop” as he calls him, and wrestling.

Andrés’ coworkers describe him as a passionate, hard-working teammate and loyal Coca-Cola ambassador whose positive attitude and sense of humor – which I pick up on several during our conversation – keep them smiling.  

“I really enjoy my work... and I like it when I get to take a break and have a Coca-Cola," he said. "My friends are very important to me. They really support me and help me move forward.”

He says he’s proud to work for a company that has supported Special Olympics since its inception in 1968. His mother, Olga, says she’s “very grateful for all the opportunities Coca-Cola has given Andrés and also for the respect and admiration they showed him as an employee, colleague and friend.”

Andrés is eager to return to the gym and already has his sights set on the 2019 Special Olympics World Games. But before he and his family leave L.A. and return to Venezuela, he plans to test out his skills a few hours away.

“They plan to visit Las Vegas," Ana says. "Andrés says he wants to win some money so he can buy wrestling magazines to take back home."