The tale of two special athletes
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- This is the story of two of this year's Kadena Special Olympics returning athletes, Fumie Nakamura and Ty Murdock.
The 15th annual KSO is set to take place on Nov. 8. The one-day sporting event will host nearly 1,000 special needs athletes and artists participating in a day of competition, music and special recognition.
Fumie Nakamura, 45, is a local athlete who will be participating in the 50-meter run and ground golf tournamen for her fourth KSO in a row. She is currently employed at the Fuyo-Kan welfare employment center and in her free time enjoys watching television, particularly popular song programs. Her favorite sport is volleyball and although KSO currently does not have it in its program, Nakamura enjoys the challenge of trying new things.
Nakamura said when she first participated in KSO in 2011, she was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the event, with over 1,000 athletes and volunteers.
"I was so nervous in my first KSO," Nakamura said. "But I remember I really enjoyed the atmosphere."
After her first year competing, she decided she would challenge herself and participate every year.
Nakamura said the most memorable experience in participating in KSO was being around so many diverse people, "Because it was fun and refreshing to be around Americans."
"A lot of volunteers were so kind and good looking," she added with a smile. "Also, I thought I should aim for a higher performance as well."
"Nakamura-san really enjoyed the interaction with the volunteers in the past of KSO," said Mieko Yamagawa, assistant facility manager of Fuyo-Kan welfare employment center. "So, she also looks forward it to again."
For Nakamura, competing in KSO opens her mind to a high level of performance and brings motivation and aggressiveness to her.
Like Nakamura, 17-year old Murdock is also looking forward to participating in this year's games.
Murdock will be participating in the 30-meter dash this year in his 12th KSO. He is in 11th grade at Kadena High School and helps coach physical education, stocks the cafeteria milk and in his spare time enjoys playing guitar and singing. His favorite sport is soccer, but he will only be running this year because he has to be at his high schools' championship football game.
While Murdock likes racing, he enjoys the recognition more.
"I really like all of the applause and cheering from the crowd when I race," said Murdock. "I also enjoy getting a medal around my neck after it is over."
Murdock has earned more than 10 medals competing in the KSO. He also trains each year for the Kadena Special Olympics and looks forward to earning even more medals and having family there to support him.
"I can't wait for my grandmother to see me compete," said Murdock. "I even got a haircut so I can look my best when she watches me run."
The KSO has grown in size every year, bringing thousands of Okinawan and American people together in support of special needs and friendly competition.