Special Olympics Alabama returns to Troy

Published 4:43 pm Friday, May 19, 2023

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After a three year hiatus, the Special Olympics Alabama State Games will return to Troy University this weekend.

The theme for the 2023 Special Olympics Alabama is “Rise With Us.” This will be the 11th total year that the games have been held at Troy University, after a three-year hiatus due to COVID-19, and the 14th overall year of the games themselves.

After the annual Law Enforcement Torch Run on May 19, the opening ceremony is held at Trojan Arena. That ceremony includes a parade of athletes, special welcomes and entertainment. A total of nearly 1,000 Special Olympians are expected to head to Troy for the games. Those athletes include 27-year old Sam Bowyer.

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Bowyer has been involved in the Special Olympics since he was eight years old, competing in events like soccer, basketball, swimming, golf and track and field. He’s competed in Special Olympics in Alabama, Kansas, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma. His father, Rick Bowyer, is a retired U.S. Army colonel, who has been by his son’s side, including coaching him at times, from the start.

“We always knew about the program and we knew that Sam had Down syndrome before he was born,” Rick Bowyer said. “So, we started looking at what opportunities were out there. Our other son has always been involved in athletics, so when Sam was old enough to be able to compete we wanted to get him involved in activities and introduce him to all the different kinds of sports.”

The elder Bowyer was in the U.S. Army for 28 years and that long of a military career can take a person away from his family for periods of time, so the Special Olympics have also been a bonding opportunity for the family.

“It’s great for us, my wife and I, because we get the opportunity to spend time with Sam doing something different with him,” he said. “He was able to graduate from high school with an alternative degree and we wanted to be able to keep him doing some kind of activities. It’s good bonding time for us.”

Sam Bowyer, who pointed to Star Wars character Jar Jar Binks and DC superhero Aquaman as swimming inspirations, will compete in the 50-meter freestyle, 50-meter breaststroke and 4×50 relay in the swimming competition at this year’s Special Olympics.

The events themselves begin on May 20 at 9 a.m. throughout the Troy University campus and in Troy. Among the events taking place will be swimming, gymnastics, equestrian, bowling, track and field, bocce, cheerleading, powerlifting, paddle boarding and golf.

Closing ceremonies will be conducted at the end of the events on May 20 and will include a memorial service for those former athletes that have passed away in the past year.