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Notable Neighbor: Special Olympian dreams of Catawba County's sports hall of fame

Hickory Daily Record - 8/28/2017

HICKORY -- Greg Brunt lost count of how many Olympic medals he had when he reached 80, but now, he's sure the total is more than 100.

Since the late 1970s, Brunt has competed in swimming in the Special Olympics, and at 55, he's made it further than his doctors ever thought he would.

"When he was he born, he had a hole in his heart, and the doctors said he wouldn't live to be 16 or 17," said Doug Metz, Brunt's stepfather and caregiver.

Brunt was born with Down syndrome, a congenital disorder caused by a chromosomal defect.

Brunt underwent surgery to repair his heart, and he hasn't stopped swimming since.

"My sisters taught me how to swim," he said.

Brunt said his favorite strokes are the backstroke and freestyle, which are the events he competes in.

Just about every day, Brunt practices at the pool at Catawba Valley Medical Center's Fitness Plus. During competition season, he trains with his team at Lenoir-Rhyne University.

Brunt also is a swimming instructor for the younger children.

"He's great with them," Metz said. "They really look up to him."

Just like any great Olympic athlete, he fills his days with fun during the off-season.

Brunt attends every LRU softball game and says he's their biggest fan.

"I take a picture with the team every year," he said.

Metz said he's practically their mascot.

In addition to softball, Brunt loves to go to Hickory Crawdads games. Recently, he watched the Little League World Series and enjoyed it, too.

"My favorite TV shows are 'The Waltons' and 'Happy Days,'" he said. "I also watch the Tar Heels on ESPN."

He owns every season of "The Waltons" on DVD.

Brunt and his stepdad love to go to the movies, and superhero films are their favorites.

Brunt was close to his mother, who passed away in 2012.

"She had a stroke in the '90s," Metz said. "We had to put her in a care facility, but Greg was there, visiting her every day."

Brunt's father died in a plane crash when Brunt was a child, which still makes him sad sometimes, he said.

Brunt is one of eight children, and although they've all moved away from Hickory, he's still close to his siblings and sometimes goes on vacation with them.

As a man of faith, Brunt loves going to church with his friends at Corinth Reformed Church.

"My favorite song we sing is 'Amazing Grace,'" he said. "Sometimes my Mom was called Amazing Grace."

Grace was his mother's middle name.

Aside from worship music, Brunt's favorite musician is the one and only, Elvis Presley.

"We went to Graceland and I saw his pink Cadillac," Brunt said, before sharing his favorite Elvis song, "Love Me Tender," and rattling off everything he knows about the singer.

Brunt might be a people person, but he's not a kitchen person.

"I cannot cook or do anything with a stove," he joked. His stepfather nodded and said Brunt in the kitchen is a fire hazard.

Thankfully, Metz can cook, Brunt said.

"His banana pudding is the best," he said. "It's my favorite dessert.

Although Brunt has lived a full and exciting life so far, he has one goal he's yet to accomplish.

"I want to be in the Catawba County Sports Hall of Fame!" he said.

As for the future, Brunt plans to continue swimming, competing and traveling with his first stop being a cruise in the Bahamas in October.

 
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