ORANGEBURG, S.C. — Orangeburg resident Joni Bowers placed as a finalist in this year's USA Special Olympics in Orlando from June 5-12.
Bowers joined more than 5,500 athletes who competed nationwide. She represented Team South Carolina in swimming and placed as a finalist in three races.
“Really melts my heart every time. It’s pretty amazing," said Bowers.
Bowers won the Bronze in the 50 Fly, fourth place in the 50 free, and silver in the 4x25 freestyle relay. She has Down Syndrome and her mother Sheri says growing up, this became her strength.
“It made her grow up faster, stronger, and I can’t imagine life without her," said Sheri.
Bowers says she's been training with local swim team, the Orangeburg Hammerheads, ever since she was selected to compete last September. The practice is held at the Orangeburg County YMCA. She swam under the leadership of Savannah Brown, who went on to be assistant coach for Team South Carolina.
“I did laps. Lots of laps with her," said Bowers.
She says all of the hard work paid off and hopes other people living with special needs will be inspired to chase their dreams.
“I want them to grow stronger and to be the best person they have in them," she said.
She says her accomplishment at this year's special Olympics is only the beginning. She plans to compete again at the next USA Special Olympics in four years and take this accomplishment to the next level.
“I wanna go for the gold.”