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St. Joe County swimmer wins gold at national Special Olympics

Joe Grooms has long been training in the pool, working towards a goal which he finally accomplished this month.

Grooms was one of 4,000 athletes to take part in the national Special Olympics USA competition in Seattle last week, and came home with three gold medals and a bronze in various swimming events.

"It was a pretty cool experience," he said of the busy week on the West Coast. "I'm used to seeing other athletes, but to see them from other states was pretty cool. I could've trained better, but I did pretty good during the races ... to just win and get that for Team Indiana and for myself too."

That national pedigree is certainly something to be excited about, but Grooms has something else on his mind - sharing his accomplishment to inspire others.

There are about 150 Special Olympics athletes in the St. Joseph County chapter alone, and now more than ever, they know that competition in sports is a place where they all deserve a shot.

"It shows not only our people, but it shows the public what these people can do," said county coordinator Tom Flatt. "It builds up a lot of confidence in the other athletes. Now they've got some goals to shoot for."

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics in Indiana, so boasting multiple gold-medal wins is a fitting way to celebrate the occasion.

"That's the great thing about it," said Grooms. "Anyone from any walk of life, children and adults with intellectual disabilities can come compete and be one big family."

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