SAN BERNARDINO - Michael Phelps, eat your heart out.
While the American swimmer has won 22 Olympic medals, including 18 gold, Colton resident Kenneth Skinner’s Special Olympics medal count dwarfs that, with 951 medals after 39 years of competition, including a gold medal in team bocce at the Special Olympics World Games this summer in Los Angeles.
Today, though, Skinner, 53, is back in the classroom, a student at the Inland Career and Education Center (formerly the San Bernardino Adult School).
“He forgot his medals, so today is the first day he can show them off,” said teacher Grayzon Izumi. The class began Monday after the summer break.
In addition to his brand new gold medal, Skinner wore ribbons for his fourth-place finishes in the singles and doubles bocce competitions at the Special Olympics this summer.
“I have quite a bit,” Skinner said, lifting it up. “This is the only one from the World Games out here. ,,, I have a bunch of medals at home now. This one is my 951st medal.”
Skinner, who started off competing in track and field, learned bocce at a demonstration of the game in Downey decades ago. And he started winning immediately, and it’s still a good feeling every time, Skinner said.
“It was exciting when I first got this medal,” he said.
As were his classmates: “They were all shocked, they even got newspaper articles they brought to me.”
The developmentally disabled Skinner has attended adult-education classes for 30 years but also works a part-time job and helps Izumi in the 22-student classroom.
“A few years ago, I had a teacher’s aide,” said Izumi, “but because of budget cuts, she got laid off. And Kenny has really stepped up.”
Skinner doesn’t intend to stop his medal hunt any time soon.
“Whatever I can get to,” he attempts, he said. “I have a bunch of gold, silver and bronze at home. ... And now we’re working on floor hockey.”
He’ll get his next chance for Special Olympics glory in 2017, if he qualifies for the games in Austria.
“Just like all of us, Kenny sets goals in his life,” Izumi said. “Not only for himself, but for his country and all adults with developmental disabilities. ... We’re very proud of him.”
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