Special Day Special People

As the world keeps turning faster and faster there are instances that allow time to slow so that we can enjoy the moment. Over the weekend a group of people gathered to compete, test their skills, enjoy fellowship and set an example of what the human race should be.

There are lots of sports that involve strength, endurance, skills and a little bit of guts to get through the event. Swimming involves all of the above and to add to it, we don’t breath under water very well. Mark Spitz, Michael Phelps, Don Schollander, Janet Evans, Natalie Coughlin, Katie Ledecky are just a few nationally and internationally recognized names in swimming. This past weekend, swimmers from large and small towns all around Ohio were stars in their own right. Records were broken, personal best times were recorded and everyone was lauded for finishing, no matter the time taken.

I’ve been privileged to know a young lady named Erin since before she was born and through her life I’ve been able to get a peek at another world, a very special, wonderful world. When she was born the doctor, with a bedside manner of an ant, painted a horrible picture of a very bleak life ahead for her. Flash forward to today and there are few people on this planet that I know who will always have a hug, kiss and ‘love you’ waiting. Her voice comes from the top of her head and the bottom of  her heart.  This weekend I had a chance to see yet another side of her and her world.

Special Olympics is something everyone should take the time to learn about, watch, enjoy, participate and/or volunteer in. I’ve been very fortunate to have experienced several Special Olympics events including track & field, golf, soccer, and volleyball.

Swimming was my latest observation, watching people with different sets of challenges getting into the pool and doing their laps, relays and individual medleys. The power of accomplishment was overwhelming. There was a blind gentleman who placed 2nd in the backstroke! All of you who do well in the backstroke please raise you hands…now think about doing it without being able to see, it ain’t easy!

One of the last events for the day was a 4 x 25 relay and this was one of Erin’s events. As the teams lined up, everyone received a card for their lane and were then led to a staging area. Erin seems to know everyone and there were hugs all around. As they get ready to start, Erin sits on the edge of the pool, waiting for the go. She then turns, looks straight at me and says, “love you Ed”, pauses, then is off. What I thought would be a walk, turned out to be a sprint down the side of the pool on my part so that I could keep up and photograph her. Turns out it was a personal best for her.

Watching the Special Olympics has a way of keeping you grounded. It gives you a different sense of determination and sportsmanship. As their motto states, “Let me win, but if I can not win, let me be brave in the attempt.” I highly recommend that you participate, observe, support and get involved – your investment will have a wonderful return.

All the images from Special Olympics swimming.

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About Ed Zirkle

Photojournalist and mostly nice guy...
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