Special Olympics: Let the games begin!
by Lindsay Field
January 26, 2013 12:00 AM | 3767 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Special Olympics Coach Bobbie King carries the Cobb County flag with Candace Bryant, 12, of Powder Springs; her sister, Ainjel Bryant, 3; and Charlie Schwartz, 17, of Kennesaw; during the parade of athletes at the opening ceremony for the Special Olympics Georgia 2013 State Indoor Winter Games, at the Cobb Civic Center on Friday evening. Events run through Sunday.<br>Staff/Emily Barnes
Special Olympics Coach Bobbie King carries the Cobb County flag with Candace Bryant, 12, of Powder Springs; her sister, Ainjel Bryant, 3; and Charlie Schwartz, 17, of Kennesaw; during the parade of athletes at the opening ceremony for the Special Olympics Georgia 2013 State Indoor Winter Games, at the Cobb Civic Center on Friday evening. Events run through Sunday.
Staff/Emily Barnes
slideshow
Gymnasts Karen Davis of Kennesaw, left, and Meaghan Brox of Acworth, center, sit with Meaghan’s mother, Kim, third from right, and their unified partners: Sarah Foy, 8, of Smyrna, second from right, and Emily Lippincott, 12, of Marietta, who is seated behind Karen. Unified partners compete alongside the Special Olympic athletes. They are joined by Sarah’s mom, Beth, right, and Emily’s mom, top.<br>Staff/Emily Barnes
Gymnasts Karen Davis of Kennesaw, left, and Meaghan Brox of Acworth, center, sit with Meaghan’s mother, Kim, third from right, and their unified partners: Sarah Foy, 8, of Smyrna, second from right, and Emily Lippincott, 12, of Marietta, who is seated behind Karen. Unified partners compete alongside the Special Olympic athletes. They are joined by Sarah’s mom, Beth, right, and Emily’s mom, top.
Staff/Emily Barnes
slideshow
Former Atlanta Falcon and University of Georgia quarterback D.J. Shockley serves as grand marshal for the parade of athletes.<br>Staff/Emily Barnes
Former Atlanta Falcon and University of Georgia quarterback D.J. Shockley serves as grand marshal for the parade of athletes.
Staff/Emily Barnes
slideshow
MARIETTA — The Georgia Special Olympics Indoor Winter Games kicked off Friday night at the Cobb Civic Center, and between now and Sunday, 182 Cobb athletes will compete along with more than 2,800 others in the annual competition.

Athletes of all ages will participate in basketball, bowling, floor hockey, power lifting, roller-skating and ice-skating.

Bobbie King, who has been a games coach since 1996, said this weekend is a time when she can stand proudly on the sidelines and cheer on the athletes as they put forth their best efforts after months of practice.

“You have no idea how excited the athletes get when they actually accomplish something,” she said. “It means the world to them, especially when they get that medal.”

King decided 17 years ago to coach swimming, softball, roller-skating and basketball because her son, Scott King, 29, is a Special Olympian.

“I went to watch my first event and, by the second event, I was helping coach,” she said.

Scott King was supposed to compete on the roller-skating team this weekend but was injured.

His fiancee, 50-year-old Kathy Klimaitis, is also an athlete, and she will be competing in basketball team skills.

King said she is “mildly mentally challenged” and works at Shallowford Animal Hospital as a kennel attendant.

“Winning is one of my favorite things,” Klimaitis said about gearing up for the Winter Games.

Klimaitis started competing in the Special Olympics at 12 years old when she and her family were living in Wisconsin. Her parents now live in Alabama, but she continues to compete in Cobb, participating in bowling, swimming or bocce.

“Kathy will try anything you ask of her,” King said. “Last year she swam the 200-meter freestyle for the first time and got a silver medal.”

King said she likes to sport her medals and tell others about her wins.

“Once I get my medals, I take them to work, show them to my friends,” Klimaitis said.

Another Cobb athlete whose parents are excited about the weekend competition is 17-year-old Charlie Schwartz of Kennesaw.

“He’s very excited,” said his mother Enid Schwartz. “He loves roller skating.”

The Kennesaw Mountain High junior, who has Asperger syndrome, has been competing in the games since he was 10 years old.

Enid Schwartz said her son was hesitant at first because he was scared to fall but has instead fallen in love with the sport.

“Seven years later, not only is he confident and a very fast skater, but he is also captain of one of the relay teams,” she said. “It’s been a very positive experience for us.”

Because of Asperger syndrome, the teenager has some problems with social interaction, but his mother said he’s made friends on his team and has one or two friends outside of sports.

Enid Schwartz said another benefit of Charlie competing in the games is that he’s no longer on ADHD medicine and that he doesn’t struggle with as many breakdowns as before.

“His confidence level has been built up so that he actually likes to talk to his teammates and encourage them,” she said. “When training started for these games, one of the newer skaters said to him ‘I can’t do it!’ and he turned around and said, ‘Can’t is not a word in Coach Bobbie’s vocabulary. We can do it and we will do it!’”

The public is invited to attend the event at various locations throughout Cobb for free this weekend.
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