Special Olympian inspires family and other athletes - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Special Olympian inspires family and other athletes

SIKESTON, MO (KFVS) -

After his performance in this Olympics, experts are calling Michael Phelps the greatest Olympian of all time.

However, some tell Heartland News the story of a Heartland athlete that many say deserves to be in that conversation.

With more than 300 medals, it's safe to say Greg Swinney is a legend. Swinney was diagnosed with Rothman-Thompson Disease, a disease that affects many parts of the body, especially the skin. Less than 300 people in the world have it.

Despite the disease family say Greg Swinney was always ready to compete, no matter how he felt.

"With so much stacked against him from day one, he never let that get to him," said Megan Duff, Greg's sister. "He always had the drive and determination to do anything."

"I remember his very first Special Olympics," said Greg's brother, Albert Swinney. "I had trophies from baseball and football and he got a ribbon that day, and he couldn't wait to get home to put it on the shelves next to my trophies.  It meant the world to him."

Greg's 33 years of competing in the Special Olympics landed him in the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame. 

Family showed us other trophies; pictures of Greg with Tony La Russa, Bo Jackson, Bruce Sutter, and Joe Buck. 

Family members say Gregg fought the disease hard, but it took his life at the age of 41 June 28, 2012.

His death sets a world record because Gregg lived with Rothman-Thompson Disease the longest.

"He was our very special son," said Greg's mother with great emotion. "He was always my angel. I could always count on him for anything. He would make the sun shine on a rainy day."

Even in his final moments, Greg wanted his Special Olympic Coach to continue the legacy.

"We made an agreement that whoever died first the other one could stop," said Dannen Muller, Greg's coach for 33 years. "So when I got up to the hospital, gave him his kiss. I said Greggy do you remember our pact. He said yes. I said does this mean I get to quit and he said no!!"

"He was my hero," said Albert Swinney. "From day one, he was born with a disadvantage. He never let that hold him back. He's done more in life than a lot of people will never do." 

Greg Swinney graduated from Sikeston High School and was employed by the Community Sheltered Workshop.

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