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Bruns, Kiefer celebrate Olympic experience

Parker Bruns, left, and Shawn Kiefer greeted friends and family on Wednesday after competing in the Special Olympics in Seattle earlier this month. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- Medals hanging with pride around his neck, Parker Bruns bearhugs a friend who just walked into Lueken's Village Foods North, where Bruns, 30, has worked since high school.

Dozens of people gathered in the deli cafe area of the store Wednesday to celebrate Bruns and Shawn Kiefer, who recently returned from their trip to the Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle, where they each earned medals in swimming.

“I’m pretty excited,” Bruns said of the celebration.

“Excellent. It makes you feel good,” Kiefer added.

Kiefer took gold in the 100 breaststroke and silver in the 200 and 400 freestyle races, while he and Bruns teamed up with two other swimmers to take silver in the 4x25 freestyle relay.

Individually, Bruns took bronze in the 50 backstroke and fifth in the 50 and 100 freestyle.

Along with being in the pool, Bruns said his favorite part of the trip was seeing his brother and sister-in-law, who live in Montana.

At Lueken’s, the crowd enjoyed hors d'oeuvres, visited with the Olympians and browsed several displays with signs and photos of the swimmers in action and receiving their medals.

“This is overwhelming, how many people showed up. It’s so exciting,” said Jodi Sandmeyer, the swimming duo’s longtime coach. “They are just on cloud nine. They were talking about Parker at work today, just floating three feet above the air. This is cool, very very cool.”

When asked if he was going to keep swimming, Kiefer, now 49, said, “Oh yeah, that won’t change. That’s not going to change.”

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