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Special Olympian has talent to spare

June 22, 1999

Nathan NeedyBy JULIE E. GREENE / Staff Writer

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer




BOONSBORO - Kim and Wayne Needy aren't sure how young their son Nathan was when he first picked up a bowling ball, but the sport has become a big part of his life.

When Needy isn't at Dual Lanes or watching pro bowling tournaments on television, he's training on Nintendo in his Boonsboro home, his father said Tuesday.

On Thursday, Needy, 20, leaves for the biggest bowling tournament of his life - the 1999 Special Olympics World Games in Raleigh, N.C.

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"He's going to be bowling against the best Special Olympics athletes in the world," said Wayne Needy, 42, coach for Team Maryland's bowling team.

Team Maryland has been training since last year in anticipation of the World Games, which are June 26 to July 4.

"It's rewarding to me seeing Special Olympics athletes progressing in the game and picking up the skills of bowling," Wayne Needy said.

In all, 388 bowlers will participate at the World Games, Kim Needy said.

The World Games are held every two years, alternating between summer and winter games.

Seven thousand athletes from 150 countries are expected to participate in the summer games, which include basketball, cycling, golf, gymnastics, powerlifting, roller skating, sailing, soccer, softball, volleyball and aquatic sports, according to the event's Web site at www.99games.com.

Kim Needy, 38, doesn't expect her son, who has a natural hook that curves left, to be nervous.

"He's a good bowler, but nothing rattles him. Nate doesn't get too excited," she said.

Nathan Needy earned a spot on Team Maryland last June when he won a gold medal in the state contest by bowling a three-game 468 set.

He bowled his best official game of 222 when he threw six straight strikes in the 1997 state competition. A perfect game is 300.

Needy's best personal score is 236, which he racked up while on a family outing in January, his mother said.

Bowling is a family tradition, Wayne Needy said. Both he and his wife have bowled on duckpin league teams for about 20 years.

Nathan Needy, who is moderately mentally retarded, started bowling duckpins when he was a child, possibly 5 years old, his father said.

Bowling has become "his thing," his father said.

"It has helped him so much. It's something he does well and makes him feel good about himself ... He's proud and it makes him happy," Kim Needy said.

Nathan bowled duckpins for the Special Olympics for two years before switching to tenpins in 1990, she said.

Nathan's younger brother, Mark, 10, said he learns a lot, especially about attitude, from watching Nathan bowl.

"He does have good sportsmanship," Mark said.

Nathan and his dad will go to Annapolis for an official send-off for Team Maryland on Friday. Then they head to North Carolina where Nathan's competition is to begin Saturday.

"It would be nice for him to win a medal, but we're doing it for him to have fun and have the time of his life," said Kim Needy, who with 16 other family members will join her son this weekend.

When Nathan wins a medal he takes it off and gives it to her, she said.

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