The athletes competed in a friendly competition Friday on the first day of the 2022 Special Olympics Missouri Outdoor State Games, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t a bit of chatter going on.
St. Louis-area Josh Landwehr and Joshua Warren said they’ve been challenging each other in the sport for about 17 years. Known as Tall Josh and Short Josh or the two Joshes, they could be heard on the Capital City High School tennis courts, ribbing each other.
“We’re pretty good at talking trash,” Landwehr said.
Warren said he used reverse psychology and light-hearted taunts. He laughed and said Landwehr smelled a shot.
“Do you need to clean your glasses?” ” He asked. Or, he pointed out, “I know there’s a hole in the middle (of the racquet handle where it splits), but you’re supposed to hit it here.” Warren gestured to the strings of the racquet.
Anyone can miss a shot, he added.
Today the men said they had early softball at Binder Park. And they also had to play flag football at Adkins Stadium.
Landwehr said the men weren’t playing golf yet, but they could.
“It’s a bit of an older man’s sport,” Warren said, and looked at a nearby trainer, who laughed and asked if Warren was talking about him.
The games, which bring about 1,100 athletes to Jefferson City from across the state, continue through Sunday.
Games include tennis, bocce, golf, softball, bingo and flag football. Events are held at Blair Oaks, Jefferson City and Capital City High Schools, Binder Sports Complex and Oak Hills Golf Course.
Healthy Athletes, a program that provides free health screenings and education for people with developmental disabilities, takes place at several locations, including the Training for Life Campus, 305 Special Olympics Drive.
As Landwehr and Warren dug into each other, nearby volunteers chased down errant fire and solved any problems that arose.
Members of the Russellville National Honor Society arrived in Jefferson City early Friday to help. Several have helped with tennis matches.
Three seniors, Trinity Riggs, Cali Coombs and Josi Stewart, were given a break between games. Each said they were unfamiliar with the sport for the most part.
“I’m actually here to learn how to play tennis – helping and learning at the same time,” Riggs said. “We get to work with people with different challenges.”
In 2021, the group worked with people who play basketball for Special Olympics, she said.
“Seeing smiles on the kids’ faces was really rewarding,” Riggs said.
Coombs said she had never been involved in tennis before.
“We’re all in this together,” Coombs said.
Coombs said her older sister, who has autism, enjoys participating in Special Olympics. Thus, Coombs grew up surrounded by children with special needs. Stewart said she was a longtime friend of Coombs, so she spent a lot of time with the Coombs family.
Stewart added that Outdoor Games athletes could teach each of them a lot. And she and her friends had learned a trashy new language for the courts.
Cameron Grayson, another senior in Russellville, said she has helped out at Special Olympics events several times.
“It made me consider a career as a special education teacher,” Grayson said. “I also thought about health sciences, because I’m passionate about nutrition. But I really like working with people who have learning disabilities or other disabilities, because it brings me joy .”