Five from Kentucky Officially Start Journey to Berlin
The two athletes, one unified partner, and two coaches who will represent Kentucky as part of the Special Olympics USA Team at the 2023 Special Olympics World Summer Games with their trip to the Special Olympics USA Team Trials in November. The Team Trials were held Nov. 18-21 in San Antonio and were the Special Olympics USA Team’s first and only opportunity to meet and work together before they travel to Germany.
Golfer Wake Mullins and his Unified partner and stepfather Dennis Gaines, both of Lexington, will be making their first trip to compete at the World Games after medaling in both the 2018 and 2022 USA Games. The pair was able to play one round of golf at San Antonio’s Olympia Hills Golf Club before weather forced them to the San Antonio Top Golf to finish their Team Trials practice. The pair still had a great experience.
“It was such a great experience for Wake and I to finally gather with the team and to begin establishing relationships amongst our fellow teammates and coaches,” Gaines said. “We competed against some of our teammates in the USA Games, now it’s so exciting that we are a team competing against the world. I really didn’t realize until one of the guest speakers acknowledged that we are the best athletes representing our country and understanding the magnitude of those comments makes us very proud and honored to be part of Team USA and to represent all the athletes in our country.”
Debbie Ogden of Ft. Wright has had incredible success as Team Kentucky’s swimming coach at the 2018 and 2022 USA Games. Now she will also be making her first trip to the World Games as Special Olympics USA’s head swimming coach in Berlin. She had the opportunity to put her team through two practices at Josh Davis Natatorium in San Antonio and came away impressed with the process and with the swimmers she will lead in Berlin.
“I keep coming back to the word amazing,” Ogden said. “To come together with a group of athletes and coaches from around the country that you have never met in person and to watch the group gel as a team in two short days; the determination shown and the friendships formed not just with swimmers but from all the sports have made an impact on my life.”
Team Trials are old hat for Kentucky’s two gymnastics representative to the Special Olympics USA Team. Mary Fehrenbach of Versailles will serve as Special Olympics USA’s head gymnastics coach for the fourth consecutive Special Olympics World Games and to her seventh World Games overall. Russellville’s Lee Dockins, who will be competing in rhythmic gymnastics in Berlin, is making her fifth trip to the World Games. Their group worked out at Aerial Athletics at Team Trials.
In their five World Games together, Fehrenbach has seen Dockins’ approach to Team Trials change considerably.
“Lee has become a real leader at these events,” Fehrenbach said. “She exhibits a quiet leadership by example for the other gymnasts. She doesn’t look for recognition or accolades and always gives 100% in all that she does.”
In addition to practices, Team Trials offered a number of opportunities for fun and team bonding, including team dinners and cornhole competitions. One highlight was a trip for the entire Special Olympics USA Team to Morgan’s Wonderland Theme Park — the world’s first theme park built to be 100% accessible for people with special needs.
The 2023 Special Olympics World Summer Games mark the return of the Games to Europe for the first time since the 2011 World Summer Games in Athens. The Games are expected to bring together more than 7,000 athletes from 170 countries to compete. This will be the fifth time that the World Summer Games have been held outside the United States. The others were in 2003 in Dublin, Ireland; 2007 in Shanghai, China; 2011 and 2019 in Abu Dhabi. The 2015 Games were held in Los Angeles.
For more information about the athletes and coaches named to the Special Olympics USA Team for the 2023 Special Olympics World Summer Games or about how you can help support their trip, contact Special Olympics Kentucky President and CEO Trish Mazzoni at 800-633-7403 or via e-mail at email@example.com.