Siblings keep burning the competitive torch

Brother, sister build tradition in Special Olympics

June 09, 2006|By KRISTI FUNDERBURK | KRISTI FUNDERBURK,SUN REPORTER

When Scott Glowacki finishes his workday at Baltimore Window Factory, he usually heads straight to a nearby health club and into the pool. He loves to swim, especially competitively.

And he has the pins, plaques and medals to prove it.

Glowacki, 43, will be going for more medals this weekend when he returns to race in the state Special Olympics at Towson University. He and his sister, also a swimmer, have been competing at the event off and on for nearly three decades.

Athletes are limited to one sport per Olympics, and Scott and Karen chose swimming for the state games. Both will swim the 50-yard backstroke and the 50-yard freestyle. Karen will swim the women's relay, and Scott will swim the men's relay. More than half of the athletes at the Special Olympics are adults, and many participate for years. But few stick with it as long as the Glowacki siblings have, said Kelley Wallace, vice president of public relations at the Special Olympics.

"The longevity of their participation is unique because the athletes often have a great challenge with transportation as they get older or they cycle out," Wallace said.

The Glowackis have "stayed interested. They've tried new sports. It's neat, and it's also a testament to their family support," she said.

Nearly 1,200 athletes are to compete at this year's summer Special Olympics. The three-day event starts this evening with opening ceremonies at Johnny Unitas Stadium. The weekend includes a gymnastics demonstration and competitions in aquatics, track and field, bocce and softball.

The Glowackis - both of whom have received diagnoses of mild mental retardation, their mother said - have been training for about three months.

Scott Glowacki, who lives with his parents in Glen Arm, fits windows, fills orders and helps installers at Baltimore Window Factory. Karen, 46, lives in Towson and is a cafeteria assistant at Mercy Ridge, a retirement community.

Carole Glowacki said both of her children love to compete.

"They get in the water, and they both start swimming. Or, get on the track and they start running. Or, they get in the boat and they start sailing," she said. "It's very enjoyable to see them participate, especially since they're competitive."

Scott Glowacki keeps more than 50 of the pins and buttons he has collected over the years at Special Olympics events, including the international Special Olympics, in a picture frame. Teams from different states or countries traditionally traded pins. He has plaques on his bedroom wall and more awards in shoeboxes.

In past Special Olympics, Scott and Karen have participated in several events, such as swimming, bowling, track and field, weightlifting, roller skating, golf, cross-country and tennis.

Choosing which sport to participate in wasn't hard for Scott.

"I like swimming more than track and field," Scott said.

Brad Ross, 24, will run the 100-meter dash and 400-meter relay and will participate in the shot put and standing long jump competitions this weekend. He has been involved in Special Olympics since he was 8.

His mother, Jill Ross, said she wanted him to participate for the social aspects and the exercise.

Ross, who lives with his parents in Timonium, is an assistant scoutmaster and a mail clerk for Becton Dickinson in Sparks. He wears one of his many Special Olympics gold medals to work every day, his mother said.

Jill Ross said the Special Olympics gives her son a lot of positive reinforcement and it allows him to have fun with other athletes.

"Most of these adults and kids don't get to go out to the movies every weekend, but with this there's a big dance Saturday night, and Friday night is the opening ceremonies with fireworks and music, and it gives them a chance to go out and have a good time, to have some fun other than the sports," she said.

Karen Glowacki said she looks forward to making friends with people from other counties.

"We just get to have fun meeting other people," she said. "We're congratulated by other teams, and we congratulate them. It's really fun."

Carole Glowacki said she credits the Special Olympics for the lessons it teaches.

"It's educated them further in listening to their coaches, following directions and, most importantly, in learning how to lose," she said. "They learn how to lose and lose gracefully, which is important because life isn't perfect."

kristi.funderburk@baltsun.com

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