EASLEY — Only a handful of Pickens County residents might know there is a two-time gold medal winner living in their midst.
Todd McKinney, a resident of Easley, has now had the fortune of competing in the National Special Olympics in two sports, bringing home the gold twice. Most recently in 2014 McKinney made the trip to New Jersey and Princeton University to compete, bringing home the top prize in bowling.
“I’d go anywhere other than there for vacation, it was sticky hot,” McKinney said of his most recent trip to compete, unaware most of the facilities lacked air conditioning. “My favorite part was making new friends.”
McKinney, coached by family friend David Wolfe, took up bowling after trying it only once and many Saturday afternoons watching professionals ply their skills.
“I tried it one time and I liked it and have been bowling since,” McKinney said. “I like it because it’s a sport and I go all the time now.”
McKinney can be found on most Thursday nights at Star Lanes and according to him has a big evening.
“I bowl three games every Thursday,” he said. “Then we go to Applebee’s for an appetizer and then karaoke.”
There doesn’t seem to be much McKinney won’t do.
On his return from New Jersey, gold medal in hand, he says his family and friends were excited as was he at his accomplishment.
“I got back and settled and when they saw my medal they were really rather glad about it,” he said with a smile. “I felt happy about what I did and was excited too.”
McKinney’s first gold medal was for softball, won in Nebraska in 2010, but according to sources, there won’t be anymore.
“Todd retired from softball officially,” Perry Nix, a coordinator with the Pickens County Special Needs and Disabilities Board said. “We did win the gold but then he hit an infield home run and said he’d done what he wanted to do and retired right there on the spot.”
If McKinney’s attitude about participating remains the same chances are softball will be replaced by another sport, as he is an avid sports fan.
McKinney works for PCSNDB, sweeping and cleaning the floors when not bowling or participating in karaoke, and beyond getting the opportunity to make new friends and actually meet some who work in professional bowling, he has a fond memory to last a lifetime.
“We went on a riverboat, it was a dinner cruise during the day,” he said. “We saw the Statue of Liberty. And it’s big.”
Even if McKinney never brings another medal home to Pickens County, he has made the community proud and is willing to take all challengers any Thursday night, whether it be on the lanes or the microphone.