Special Olympics hosting swim meet Saturday

Organizers of the Special Olympics swim meet scheduled for Saturday at the Owensboro Healthpark are hoping for a big turnout from the public to cheer on the athletes.

There are 96 swimmers registered to compete, which is a significant increase over last year’s inaugural event that featured about 70 athletes.

“Their main focus is to swim, but they want support from anybody, and they’re very affectionate people,” said Bruce Thomas, coach of the Owensboro-Daviess County Water Rockets. “They cheer for each other, and they love hearing the crowd cheer for them.”

The Owensboro team has 23 swimmers competing in two divisions, which are for developmental swimmers, those who use floaties, kickboards and or other assistance, and then regular swimmers.

“We have a full array of events for them to swim,” Thomas said.

The state is divided into two regions, with the top performers from the Southwest Meet moving on to the Brad Harkleroad Memorial State Swim Meet on May 17-18 at the Ralph Wright Natatorium in Louisville. “We stress no matter what position the athlete finishes, to their family and friends, they’re No. 1,” Thomas said. “The competition is really secondary. The fact that they get out and put themselves out there is the biggest thing.”

Thomas began working with the team three years ago as an assistant coach, then took over as head coach a year later. He has deep ties to swimming, having swam through college before coaching high school and club teams.

He said working with Special Olympics has been more rewarding than he could have hoped.

“I don’t have an attachment through family members,” he said. “I felt being retired, and I was a swimmer all of my life, that I could give back to the community, and it’s been a real blessing to work with these athletes.”

Saturday’s meet starts at 9 a.m. with the opening ceremonies. Events begin immediately following the ceremony.

The state meet will conclude this year’s season. The team will reassemble in January, with practices each Sunday at the YMCA.

Anyone who meets the qualifications and is interested in joining the team for next year should contact Area 2 Special Olympics representative Kim Johnson at 270-314-7621 or