WADSWORTH — Regardless of the sport, Denise Frencel has more heart than many professional athletes, while Joe Darmour is an ace on the golf course and a leader on the basketball floor.
The duo will be recognized as 2014 Special Olympics Athletes of the Year on Thursday at the Medina County Sports Hall of Fame banquet at The Galaxy Restaurant.
Frencel has been involved in Special Olympics for more than 20 years and has been active in volleyball and bowling. On the lanes, she averages 115 with a high game of 181.
“All this may not seem like a tremendous accomplishment, but she has done it with a bad heart,” Medina County Special Olympics coordinator Kathy Miller said. “She has had open-heart surgery and continues to battle heart disease.
“Denise does not complain about the tiredness while bowling. She competes at a high level with a smile on her face and a cheer for the other bowlers.”
Frencel has advanced to state competition as an individual and has several trophies for high game and series in the Special Olympics Bowling League.
Four years ago, she traveled to Reno, Nev., to compete in the Special Olympics National Unified Bowling Tournament with her four-person team, which brought home the silver medal. She also took part in the doubles competition.
Frencel previously competed in volleyball, but had to give up the sport because her heart condition prevented her from moving for any length of time.
“Her dedication and persistence competing in bowling, despite her physical limitations, are the reasons she is being nominated,” Miller said.
Darmour has been participating in Special Olympics since he was in grade school and is an avid Wadsworth Grizzlies basketball fan.
“The only reason he misses any of the guys’ or girls’ games in Wadsworth is because he has a game of his own,” Miller said. “Joe talks about his beloved Grizzlies all the time and compares some of his fellow teammates and himself with the athletes on those teams. He wears red and white all the time.”
Darmour has been a part of several Special Olympics teams that competed in the state tournament, with his squad bringing home the gold medal in Division V in 2013.
“Joe has always been a coach’s dream,” Miller said. “He listens to instructions and criticism and translates it into action. … Joe is definitely the general on the floor. He plays guard with an eye all over the floor. His passes are impeccable and he dribbles effortlessly.”
Darmour is just as good on the links. He plays in the Unified Golf League and has been to the Special Olympics state finals at least 10 times in the last 12 years. On numerous occasions, he and his partner have brought home a gold medal.
“Although Joe is a fierce competitor and enjoys winning, he is also graceful in defeat,” Miller said. “After a loss on the basketball court, you can often hear Joe telling his teammates, ‘Next time! We’ll get them next time.’
“For Joe’s enthusiasm, his competitiveness, his love of the games he plays and his easiness to be coached, he deserves a place in the Medina County Sports Hall of Fame.”