Two athletes from Chester County who represented Pennsylvania at the 2014 Special Olympics National Games returned home victorious from the competition.
Justin Grimley of Elverson and Sonja Swanenburg of Coatesville won medals in bocce and bowling, respectively, at the event, which is held every four years and this year ran from June 20-24 at 11 sports venues in New Jersey.
Grimley, 28, of Elverson, competed in the men’s singles, doubles, and four-person team bocce events and medaled in each. He and his partner, Trent Bupp, 33, of York, took the silver medal in the doubles competition.
To qualify for the National Games, Grimley had to win gold at the Special Olympics PA 2013 “Fall Fest,” hosted by Villanova University.
Grimley’s mother, Joan, who is a volunteer coach for the Special Olympics, said that Justin was thrilled to learn that he would be able to participate in the National Games.
Grimley, who works four days a week packing pharmaceuticals for Omnicare in King of Prussia with the support of a work coach, also won bronze medals in the individual event and four-person team bocce events.
“Justin lives for the Special Olympics,” said Joan Grimley. “He plans to continue to participate as long as he is able. I can’t speak enough of how much the Games mean to Justin (and his fellow athletes) — they’re social, they’re confidence building, and lots of fun.”
In addition to bocce, Justin also competes in swimming and bowling in the Special Olympics PA Summer Games at Penn State University, and in cross county skiing and snow-shoeing at the PA Winter Games in Johnstown. He swam in his first State Game at the age of 12.
At home, Grimley likes to lift weights, bike, swim, and play basketball. Both he and Swanenburg bowl in the Challenger Program, which runs from February through June at Downingtown Bowling Palace.
Swanenburg, 29, has been bowling since she was 10 years old — competitively since she was 13. Her interest in bowling led her mom, Maria, to begin bowling regularly herself, and to coach in a bowling program for Chester County Special Olympics. The two bowl together on a league team on Wednesday nights at the Downingtown Bowling Palace.
At the National Games, Sonja Swanenburg out-performed seven opponents to win gold in the bowling singles event. She and her bowling partner, Barbara Bickel, 46, of Danville, also won gold in the doubles bowling event. In the team bowling event, Sonja and her teammates took the bronze.
The competition was close, said Maria Swanenburg, except in the doubles event. Sonja scored an unhandicapped 181 in her first game in the event and “blew them out of the water,” said Swanenburg. Sonja played through the Games with a knee injury that she had suffered a couple weeks earlier, wrapping and icing her knee in between events.
Even when things aren’t going her way, Maria said, “(Sonja) will stick through it.”
Information from the Daily Local News, www.dailylocal.com