For months, veteran Olympians Amy Dormois and Clara Glass of Clearwater spent three nights a week perfecting their swimming styles at a local pool.
Friday afternoon the women sat side by side, ready to compete and confident they would take medals in the Florida Special Olympics aquatic competition at Southwest Recreation Center in Largo.
The women are among 314 swimmers from around the state to compete in the two-day Special Olympics that also includes softball and golf today in Largo and Clearwater.
Amy and Clara, both 25 and friends since elementary school, joked with each other about their swimming abilities. They have participated in the Special Olympics since age 9 and both have numerous blue ribbons. Amy also has a gold medal she won nine years ago in the 50-meter freestyle in her age group.
The women swim to win.
"For a long time, we had to work on teaching them to be gracious losers," said Amy's mother, Carllyn Dormois, a first-grade teacher at Belcher Elementary School.
But Clara still crumples up every ribbon but a blue, said her mother Kay Glass, a physical education teacher at Belcher Elementary.
"The Special Olympics has taught them to be proud that they did their best but, at the same time, that they can't always be in first place," Dormois said.
"It's wonderful for their self-esteem," said Glass, who adopted Clara 14 years ago. "The Special Olympics has been a driving force to provide opportunities in sports and athletics that many mentally challenged wouldn't have had otherwise; they would have been spectators instead of competitors."
Glass said Pinellas County has more than 900 children and adults registered for the Special Olympics. "We have the largest delegation of special athletes that goes to all the Games."
Aquatics: Southwest Recreation Complex, 13120 Vonn Road, Largo, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Golf: East Bay Golf Club, 702 Country Club Drive, Largo, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Softball: Sid Lickton Park, 714 Saturn Ave., Clearwater, 8 a.m to 5 p.m.; Marymont Park, 1900 Gilbert St., Clearwater, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Ross Norton Park, 1426 S Greenwood Ave., Clearwater, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Meals/Entertainment: Harborview Center, 300 Cleveland St., Clearwater, dinner from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., victory dance from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Closing Ceremonies: Coachman Park, downtown Clearwater, 7 to 7:30 p.m.