Special Olympics Kentucky is thrilled to announce the team that will represent the Commonwealth as Team Kentucky at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games, which will be held in Seattle, Wash., July 1-6, 2018. The team includes 45 athletes who will compete in eight sports at the Games, including artistic gymnastics, basketball, bocce, bowling, flag football, golf, swimming and track and field.
Team Kentucky will represent a diverse geographic cross section of the state. There are athletes from the Lexington and Louisville areas, Bowling Green, Murray, Russellville and northern Kentucky, and Barren, Carroll, Carter and Ohio Counties will be represented for the first time on Team Kentucky.
There will also be a solid mix of USA Games veterans and newcomers on Team Kentucky. Ten of the 45 athletes have competed in at least one USA Games in the past, and eight of this year’s team members have competed in World Games events dating back to 1987. The gymnastics team is the most experienced with four of the five having been to a previous World Games and two having competed at a previous USA Games. The bowling team is entirely new to competition above the state level. Golfer Wake Mullins and Unified partner Dennis Gaines have competed in three National Invitational Golf Tournaments, and golfer Jude Zilliox competed in the most recent Special Olympics North America Golf Invitational in Seattle in June 2017.
Team Kentucky will also send a very experienced coaching staff to the Games. Of the 18 coaches on the team, 10 have been involved on the USA or World Games level.
“This is one of the most exciting parts of the cycle for our program and our athletes,” said Special Olympics Kentucky President and CEO Trish Mazzoni. “Not only is competing at the USA Games a tremendous honor for our athletes, but it is an incredible growth experience for them as well. The opportunity to spend a week or more in a new city, surrounded by the energy and excitement of so many fellow athletes is a life-changing experience. So many times we have seen it make amazing changes in the athletes who have been able to attend.”
Kentucky athletes have a history of success at the USA Games. Since the Games began in 2006, Team Kentucky athletes have captured 114 USA Games medals. In 2006 Taylor Mill athlete Matt Minning was presented the first gold medal in USA Games history after winning his division of the 10,000 meter run on the first day of the Games.
The total cost of sending Team Kentucky to the 2018 USA Games is expected to approach $100,000. For information about how you can help sponsor the team or to make a donation, contact Trish Mazzoni at 502-695-8222 or [email protected].
The 2018 USA Games are the fourth such games in Special Olympics history. Past USA Games were held in 2006 in Ames, Iowa; 2010 in Lincoln, Neb.; and in 2014 in New Jersey. Athletes will stay on the University of Washington campus during the Games and most of the competition venues will be at the University.
The 2018 USA Games will bring together more than 4,000 athletes and coaches representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia to compete in 14 Olympic-type team and individual sports. Thousands of volunteers and spectators will also be a part of the Games. The 2018 Special Olympics USA Games will celebrate the Special Olympics movement and its 50th anniversary; promote the ideals of acceptance and inclusion through sport; and showcase athletes from throughout the U.S. and the abilities of people with intellectual disabilities. The 2018 USA Games will also highlight Special Olympics’ work in sport, education, health and community-building.