Two Athletes, One Unified Partner and Two Coaches Will Be Part of USA Team in Berlin
Five Kentuckians have been nominated to the Special Olympics USA team that will take part in the 2023 Special Olympics World Summer Games next June in Berlin, Germany. Gymnast Lee Dockins of Russellville and the Lexington Unified golf pair of Wake Mullins and Unified partner Dennis Gaines will compete at the Games, while Versailles gymnastics coach Mary Fehrenbach and Fort Wright swimming coach Debbie Ogden have both been selected as head coaches for the USA delegation.
Mullins and Gaines have been selected to compete in the Unified 18-hole Alternate Shot competition in Berlin. The pair has represented Kentucky multiple times in national Special Olympics Competitions in the last 10 years, including the Special Olympics North America Invitational Golf Tournament in 2013, 2015 and 2016. They were selected to Team Kentucky for both the 2018 and 2022 Special Olympics USA Games, both times competing in the 18-hole Unified Alternate Shot event. They won a bronze medal in 2018 in Seattle. They won a silver medal at the 2022 USA Games in Orlando in June.
Mullins, 26, has been a Special Olympics athlete for 16 years and has competed in soccer, flag football, bocce, softball and basketball in addition to golf. He is a 2015 graduate of Henry Clay High School where he played two seasons on the varsity golf team. He began serving as a varsity basketball manager at Henry Clay as a student there and continues in that role now. He was named to the Henry Clay High School Wall of Honor in 2015. A Special Olympics Kentucky Athlete Ambassador, Mullins represents the organization at numerous events throughout the state. He currently volunteers two days a week at Lakeside Golf Course in Lexington.
Gaines, who is Mullins’ stepfather, has been involved with Special Olympics as a coach and Unified partner for 14 years. He serves as the primary point of contact for many Special Olympics programs in central Kentucky. In 2013 he and Mullins represented the state at the Special Olympics Capitol Hill Day in Washington, DC. While competing at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games, Gaines recorded his first ever hole in one during the tournament’s second round. He works as a consultant with Toyota Motor Manufacturing.
Dockins, 35, is a veteran of multiple World and USA Games events, and has won more World Games medals than any Special Olympics Kentucky athlete. She competed in artistic gymnastics at the 2007 World Summer Games in Shanghai, China, the 2011 Games in Athens, Greece, and the 2015 Games in Los Angeles. She competed in rhythmic gymnastics at the 2019 Games in Abu Dhabi.
At the 2007 World Games, Dockins won gold medals in the floor exercise and vault as well as a silver in the uneven bars on her way to a fourth-place finish in the all-around. She followed that up in 2011 with a five-medal performance that included gold in the all-around, beam and floor exercises, another silver in the uneven bars and a bronze in vault. She defended her all-around title in 2015 with another gold medal, as well as winning gold again in the beam and floor exercise. She also scored a bronze medal in uneven bars. In 2019 she won five medals in her first effort in rhythmic gymnastics at the World Games level. She grabbed three silvers and two bronze medals, including bronze in the all-around.
Dockins is coming off another stellar performance in artistic gymnastics at the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games, held this past June in Orlando, Fla. Dockins earned five medals, including defending her 2018 all-around gold. She added golds in the floor exercise and uneven bars and silver medals in the balance beam and vault.
In 2018, Dockins was selected as one of four Special Olympics athletes to be featured in an exhibit at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History that commemorated Special Olympics’ 50th Anniversary. The exhibit included the leotard and hand grips Dockins wore at the 2007 World Games.
While this will be the first time coaching at the World Games level for Ogden, she has served as the Team Kentucky swimming coach at the last two USA Games – in 2018 in Seattle and at the 2022 Games in Orlando, Fla., this past June. In those two Games, Ogden’s nine swimmers have combined to capture 15 medals, including four gold medals. At the 2022 Games, the Kentucky 4x 50-yard medley relay team combined to win gold in a time of 3:18.730, one of three gold medals won by Kentucky swimmers at the Games.
Ogden has been a Special Olympics coach for 16 years but has been working with individuals with intellectual disabilities for nearly 35 years. She has coached the Northern Kentucky Dolphins Special Olympics swim team since beginning with the program. In addition to Special Olympics coaching, Ogden has also coached the Ludlow/Bromley swim and dive team, the St. Agnes School track and field team and the St. Agnes School fifth grade volleyball team in Fort Wright. She is the Senior Executive Assistant in the Development Department at Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati.
Fehrenbach will be making her seventh trip to the Special Olympics World Games and fourth straight as the Special Olympics USA head gymnastics coach. She also coached at the 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019 Games. In 1999 she was the Team Kentucky head coach (when U.S. states still sent their own delegations). In 2003 she was the gymnastics coach responsible for athletes from the five-state Great Lakes region. Her 2007 trip saw her serve as a Special Olympics USA assistant.
Having coached in both Virginia and Kentucky, she has been a Special Olympics coach for 31 years and was named the Special Olympics North America Coach of the Year in 2011. In addition to coaching at the World Games, Fehrenbach has been the head gymnastics coach for Team Kentucky at each of the five Special Olympics USA Games that have been held. Her three gymnasts at the 2022 USA Games in Orlando claimed 13 medals, including eight gold. All three – including Versailles gymnast Racheal Connor – won gold in their all-around division.
In addition to gymnastics, Fehrenbach has coached multiple Special Olympics cheerleading squads. Her work with the Legacy Showcats in Lexington helped pave the way for special needs cheerleading programs throughout the United States. She also now coaches an equestrian group.
States are allotted specific sport and competition level slots within which to nominate athletes for the Special Olympics USA World Games team. In this cycle Kentucky as allotted an 18-hole Unified golf pair and a Level 3 gymnast slot. Selections were made from our 2022 USA Games team.
While all Special Olympics USA team selections do not become official until after the Special Olympics USA Team Training Camp that will be held this November, it is expected that all five Kentucky selections will make the trip to Berlin.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.