Nimmo, others looking forward to Special Olympics

Emily Arthur

Duane Nimmo can’t dunk a basketball. He can’t run a marathon. He can’t even tread water.

Standing at close to five feet tall, give or take a few inches, Nimmo isn’t able to dominate a basketball game, and he says that he no longer swims because the water goes too far over his head.

He loves cycling, playing soccer and bowling and he does so with what one of his coaches calls “a winning spirit.”

Nimmo is special.

Special in the way his smile lights up the room and special in the way he interacts with people.

Nimmo doesn’t look his age. He will be 50 in July but his face is smooth with very few wrinkles, which are not evident until he smiles.

His dark blond hair is cut short with a slight colic towards the back that looks as if it never wants to stay down.

The only clue to Nimmo’s age is his hands.

He has an athlete’s hands, wrinkled and calloused after years of work and sport.

Today and into this weekend, Nimmo will be competing in cycling and the shot-put in the Special Olympics.

You see, Duane Nimmo was born with Down’s Syndrome.

Despite this mental handicap, he hasn’t let it slow him down.

Over the years, he’s competed in various sports in the Special Olympics from bowling to basketball.

Nimmo also works at the Story County Development Center and his knowledge of many sports makes him an all-around athlete.

One of his favorite sports is soccer.

He won’t be able to compete in the sport this year because of a Special Olympic rule that only allows an athlete to compete in one sport per day, but it’s a sport he enjoys and has excelled in.

“I’ve been in soccer a long time,” Nimmo said. “You kick the ball with your feet. You have to kick it really hard so it goes through the net.”

Nimmo also said that he’s really looking forward to the opening ceremonies and what will follow.

“After the ceremonies and everything, there’s a dance,” Nimmo said. “That will be fun.”

As a self-proclaimed ladies man, Nimmo said he’ll be dancing a lot at the dance at Hilton Coliseum which follows the competition.

“I dance with a lot of girls,” he said. “I like to dance with girls.”

Jenny Sillman, 33, has been with the Arc, the organization planning and running the Special Olympics, since last May but just started working with the athletes in December.

As one of Nimmo’s coaches, Sillman helps him with training and she says that she’s developed a good relationship with him.

“He loves to be a leader,” Sillman said of Nimmo. “He loves to help with stretching and warm-ups and he has such a positive attitude.”

When asked to describe Nimmo, Sillman was at a loss for words.

“It’s hard to sum him up,” she said. “Duane’s just a neat guy.”

Sillman said that the joy she gets from the Special Olympics is seeing Nimmo and the other athletes compete.

“I’m excited just to see him participate,” she said. “Duane’s real intense and focused when he competes and he always has a good time.”

Lori Ertz of the Arc is familiar with Nimmo and has only positive things to say about him.

“When he does his events, he’s so fun to watch,” Ertz said. “He gets really into it and he’s such a positive person.”

Both Sillman and Ertz said that they have reaped the benefits of the Special Olympics and that the best part of it all is the relationships formed with the athletes like Nimmo.

The Special Olympics opening ceremonies will begin 7:30 p.m. tonight at Jack Trice Stadium and will be followed by fireworks.

The ceremonies are open to the public.

ISU interim President Dick Seagrave, ISU women’s basketball coach Bill Fennelly and former men’s basketball player Paul Shirley are all expected to make appearances.

Competition will start on Friday with cycling, roller skating, tennis, soccer, golf and a race walk.

Day two of competition will run from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. while the last day of competition will go from 8:30 a.m. to noon.

Gold, silver and bronze medals with be awarded to all first, second and third place finishers. No athlete will go home without a ribbon for participation.

Nimmo is one athlete determined to place and is adamant about bringing home a piece of hardware.

“I’m going to get that medal,” he said.