COLUMBIA — Don’t challenge Ronnie Lowe to a game of pool.
Between track and field events at the Special Olympics Missouri State Summer Games, the self-proclaimed “pool shark” lets friends and opponents know that he’s a tough challenger whether he’s sprinting or lining up an eight ball in a corner pocket.
Lowe, of Columbia, has loved competition since he was 8 years old and picked up track and field for the first time. Now, decades later, Lowe, 41, has the competitive fire to compete into his 60s.
“My ultimate goal is to turn professional in pool in the next two to three years. Not only in pool, but I’d like to turn professional in track and field,” Lowe said matter-of-factly. “I’m hoping to become the first mentally disabled athlete to compete in the regular Olympics in 2016 in Brazil or in 2020.”
At this year’s Special Olympics held in Columbia this weekend, he competed in the 200-meter dash, long jump, shot put, 4 x 100 relay and softball.
“Track and field is in my blood … I live, breathe, eat, sleep track and field. I even get tips from watching TV and now online (with) YouTube,” he said. “I like watching not only the pros but college and sometimes high school athletes, and I learn something from it … and I grow from that experience.”
But Lowe is more than just a competitor.
He likes to travel and enjoys being a mentor to the athletes who live with him. He likes to cook and clean while helping out the younger patrons who look up to him.
Jody Cook, a recreation specialist at Columbia Parks and Recreation who has fielded Lowe on her Special Olympics team for seven years, said he’s the perfect athlete to represent the organization.
Although Lowe is competitive, Cook said he understands the big picture and that she can trust Lowe to talk to an athlete who needs counseling or to lead by example on the field.
“Ronnie Lowe is one of the nicest men you will ever meet. He has a very tremendous and sincere heart. He thinks of other people always before himself. He would literally give you the shirt off his back,” Cook said.
This story was written by one of 11 students participating in the Sports Journalism Institute, hosted by MU. This is the 22nd class for the Institute, designed to provide minority and female students with a start in the sports journalism industry. This is SJI's third year at Missouri.