YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic Of Korea -- As the PyeongChang 2013 Special Olympics hosted by Republic of Korea draws near, Servicemembers, families and civilians of Yongsan welcomed 200 members of the U.S. Special Olympics Team composed of athletes, coaches, and Special Olympic International Committee.

Over 150 athletes will represent the U.S Special Olympics Team. The Special Olympics World Winter Games will be represented by 115 countries and over 2,300 athletes will be competing in Figure Skating, Snowboarding, Cross Country Skiing, Floor Hockey, Speed Skating, Alpine Skiing and Snow Shoeing.

Yongsan community members filled the Collier Community Fitness Center here to greet and cheer on the American athletes. Upon arrival, the athletes were given a huge round of applause, while shouting "U.S.A." along with the athletes.

"I want to give you a 'Yongsan, Korea,' round of applause and we are proud of you," said Gen. James D. Thurman, commander of United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command, and U.S. Forces Korea. "All these folks standing around here represent all 28,000 U.S servicemembers that are here in Republic of Korea, and it is wonderful to host each one of you. To our athletes, you are already true champions. Whether you earn a medal or not, it is more important to know that you have done your very best."

Thurman recommended athletes and staff members to explore Korea and expressed how great the country he protects and goes together.

"Please enjoy your time in Republic of Korea," Thurman said. "The Koreans are gracious hosts, and this country is full of great culture and traditions. I want to thank our important allies hosting this important competition. Hosting this event is one of many ways ROK demonstrates its true global leadership."

The Yongsan community was given time to meet the athletes individually after the event. They took time to share their thoughts and encouragements and took pictures together.

"I am very happy and excited to be here," said Maul Leanna, who will be competing in the Women's Snowshoeing category. "I want to make people proud of me and my country. I want to earn a gold medal and make everyone happy for us. I want to say thank you to all Soldiers and their families came out to greet and support us. Good luck and be careful and safe. Thank you all."

The Special Olympics World Winter Games will be in PyeongChang, Republic of Korea, from Jan. 29 to Feb. 5, 2013.