COLUMBIA — Keane Bane began her journey to the Special Olympics Missouri State Summer Games in November in a 16x40-foot pool at the Depot Inn & Suites in La Plata.
She finished it at MU’s Olympic-sized pool Saturday when she won gold in the 25-meter float and the 10-meter assisted swim.
Because there were no other public pools in her hometown, the 11-year-old could only practice by using the motel’s facility. Her mother, Crissy Bane, had reached out to her friend and the motel manager, Maria Snodgrass, to see if her daughter could use her pool. Snodgrass quickly agreed.
“La Plata is a tight-knit community,” Snodgrass said. “We help each other out any time that we can. I just saw they had a need, and I had an availability.”
Bane was born with Down syndrome and a hole in her heart, which causes her body to overheat. Keane’s mother said making it to MU for her daughter's first Summer Games was special.
“We are just in awe of this place because we’ve never been in anything like this,” Crissy Bane said. “To be here at state, we never thought we’d be at state..”
Over the years, Keane has played a series of other sports such as basketball, softball and track, but she wasn’t able to compete at the level she wanted because of a bad mitral valve that doesn’t transport blood to and from her heart properly.
Neither Keane’s heart condition nor living two hours away from MU would stop Keane from swimming in the “big, big pool,” her mother said, referring to MU's Olympic-sized pool.
“It’s a special thing for her to be able to come here and to swim in it,” Crissy Bane said. “It’s a treat for her.”
Bryan Bane, Keane’s father, said his daughter was very excited to be at the Games. He explained that outside of Special Olympics providing people with intellectual disabilities an opportunity to compete at a high level. It also serves as an environment where they can grow socially.
Learning how to talk to other people, being a gracious competitor and having fun when competing are all valuable lessons Special Olympians take away from an event like the Summer Games, Bryan Bane said.
“(Keane’s) thing is just actually having fun,” Bryan Bane said. “I don’t think she even comprehends winning, which ,to me, that’s all right. That’s one less thing to worry about.”
Even if having fun was her primary goal, Keane still won both the 25-meter float, where she swam from one of end the pool to the other end any way she chose, and the 10-meter assisted swim, where her coach joins her in the pool.
She was the only person competing in both events, but that didn’t make her coach or parents any less proud of her accomplishment.
“She did a fabulous job,” coach Taylor Birsa said. “She did amazing, especially when she only had to swim 10-meters (in the assisted swim) and wanted to go the whole (25 meters) after she just swam.”
Bryan Bane won’t forget the opportunity the Special Olympics provided his daughter. She competed in her first competition, and she won her first competition.
“We as a human race ought to be more like (the Special Olympics),” Bryan Bane said. “Because the good Lord gave them love. Big hearts. They see no color difference. They just love everybody for what they are. That’s the amazing thing.”