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B E E N  T H E R E:  D O I N G   I T   M Y   W A Y

Joey Swienski

December 1997

"Everyone is a Winner"

A Special Olympics Story

A conversation with a Special Olympics Athlete

When Joey was in the third grade his Special Ed teacher got him interested in The Special Olympics. He soon discovered how much he liked competing in different sports and being part of a team. Now, at 34, Joey still competes in Special Olympics year round, because it's so much fun and because in Special Olympics, everyone is a winner.

 

Joey on the courtThe InSite: Joey, can you tell me a little bit about Special Olympics? Who is it open to?

Joey: It's open to anybody who wants to get involved. Eunice Kennedy Shriver started the Special Olympics.

TI: Why do they call it Special Olympics? What's so special about it?

Joey: Everybody is really special. It's a really fun sport. Win or lose we have fun. Everybody is a winner in Special Olympics. Everybody is friends and everybody comes out and cheers us on and we have a great time.

Everybody is a winner in Special Olympics.

TI: How did you first hear about Special Olympics?

Joey: From my elementary school teacher when I was about 8 years old. She got us interested in it.

TI: Are you still competing?

Joey: Yes, I am. I'm 34 years old and I'm on the "Champs" Special Olympics Team.

TI: So this has been a long time interest of yours, since you were very young. Do you have a special event that you do?

Joey: I like basketball a lot! Basketball is my favorite. And I also like bowling and track and field.

Basketball is my favorite.

TI: I read that there is a year long training program for Special Olympics, before people compete. Can you tell me about that?

Joey: First we train to compete, then we get into the sport in Special Olympics. We have coaches, and they help us out, to get us ready for Special Olympics. We start in January and we go through until May, when Special Olympics start.

TI: How often do you practice?

Joey: After work I go to my Special Olympics practice at a school. And we'd have basketball practice there in the evenings from 5 until 7. Then we got ready for our basketball tournament.

TI: And who do you compete against?

Joey: Different Special Olympics athletes, on different teams, like the Chargers and Orange Grove. All kinds of different athletes.

TI: It sounds like a wonderful thing. I'll bet you've met some great people over the years.

Joey: I sure did! I have a lot of friends at Special Olympics. It's really a fun sport to come and watch and the audience just cheers us on and it's free to anybody who wants to come out and see Special Olympics.

TI: You seem like a very enthusiastic person who obviously loves Special Olympics. Have you been successful in getting other people involved in this wonderful program.

Joey: Yeah, I have!

TI: What do you tell them about it?

Joey: Special Olympics is really a fun sport. It's really a joy to come out and see the Special Olympics athletes competing in swimming and basketball and bowling.

TI: What do the athletes themselves get out of it?

Joey: They get hugs and kisses! And win or lose we get ribbons. It's really fun competing. You get to meet a lot of new friends. You get to compete in the State Games.

And win or lose we get ribbons.
It's really fun competing.
You get to meet a lot of new friends.

TI: So you get to travel, that's always fun. Where do you stay when you're traveling?

Joey: When I went to the State Special Olympics, our team stayed at the dorms at UCLA. And we also went to Hawaii in the '80's and competed in basketball. We stayed at Waikiki over there. Had a really excellent time.

TI: Have you met any celebrities?

Joey: Rafer Johnson [Olympics medalist]. He's in charge of the Special Olympics at UCLA. He's really nice. I got to meet Sally Struthers of [the classic TV sitcom] "All in the Family." Got to meet a lot of stars and football players. And I met with Troy Donahue [retired movie actor]. Me and him got to be good friends when I met him at Special Olympics in Los Angeles.

TI: Why do you like it so much?

Joey: It's fun to be on a team. We've got a slogan: "Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."

"Let me win, but if I cannot win,
let me be brave in the attempt."

TI: That's really what it's all about, isn't it? Doing you're best.

Joey: And having a good time with other friends out there.

TI: So this is still a big part of your life.

Joey: It sure is!

TI: How often do you go and do your training?

Joey: We've got a Special Olympics bowling coming up and our team is practicing bowling on Friday afternoons, but I'm in a league on Friday nights, so I'm getting my practice over there.

TI: Are you a good bowler?

Joey: Pretty good. Last week I bowled a 138, 105 and a 108. Special Olympics in Sacramento starts in the middle of May 1998. Basketball starts in March or April but we start practicing in February. We have bowling, basketball and track and field.

TI: Are you a runner too?

Joey: I compete in the 50 yard dash, the relay race, the standing long jump, the 200 meter race and the softball throw. I have a lot of medals too and a whole bunch of ribbons. I have them hanging up on the wall here in my room.

I [also] compete in the 50 yard dash, the relay race, the standing long jump, the 200 meter race and the softball throw.

TI: Sounds like you're very proud of what you've done, as you should be! It also sounds like Special Olympics keeps you busy and happy all year round!

Joey: It sure does! [And if any teens out there...] come to Sacramento to visit, come out to the Special Olympics and see us compete. You'll have a good time watching us compete and it's really fun. [The Special Olympics] is always looking for volunteers so you can call our director at (916) 920-2950 (and find out how you can get involved).

Everybody is really special. It's a really fun sport. Win or lose we have fun. Everybody is a winner in Special Olympics. 
Call The Special Olympics at (916) 920-2950.
Find out how you can get involved.
 

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