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Three athletes, one coach from NKY to participate in 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando

In just less than three weeks, one Northern Kentucky Special Olympics athlete, two Unified Partners and one coach will be on their way to the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando, Fla.

Maddie Brinkman of Union will swim at the Games for Team Kentucky swimming coach Debbie Ogden of Ft. Wright. Michelle Goderwis of Cold Spring and Olivia Whitehead of Newport will both be part of the University of Louisville-based Unified Basketball team that will compete as part of Team Kentucky. It is the first Unified team that Kentucky has ever sent to the USA Games.

Brinkman, 22, has been a Special Olympics athlete for five years, and has competed in softball and track and field in addition to swimming. She is a member of the Northern Kentucky Dolphins swim team and is making her first ever USA Games trip. She works at Panera Bread in Union.

Maddie Brinkman (left) and Debbie Ogden (Photos from Special Olympics of Kentucky)

Ogden, who is Brinkman’s coach with the Dolphins, will serve as the Team Kentucky swimming coach for the second consecutive USA Games. Ogden’s swimmers combined for nine medals at the 2018 Games in Seattle, Wash. She has been a Special Olympics coach for 15 years but has been working with individuals with intellectual disabilities for nearly 35 years. 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.

Goderwis, 20, is a sophomore at the University of Louisville majoring in economics and sustainability. She is a graduate of Bishop Brossart High School in Alexandria, where she ran track for four years for the Mustangs. Goderwis has been active in Unified Sports at Louisville since arriving on campus, participating in Unified basketball, bocce and human foosball. She also enjoys soccer and volleyball. She plans to attend law school and hopes to practice environmental law.

Michelle Goderwis

Whitehead, 20, is a sophomore at the University of Louisville. She is from Newport where she graduated from Newport Central Catholic High School. Whitehead played four years of varsity soccer for the Thoroughbreds, serving as the team captain as a senior. While at UofL she has participated in Unified basketball, bocce and human foosball. She also enjoys snowboarding. Whitehead is majoring in Bioengineering and plans to become a Physician Assistant or work developing new prosthetics.

Team Kentucky will gather before the USA Games on Friday, June 3, at the Courtyard by Marriott on Phillips Lane in Louisville, where the team will stay before departing for the airport at 7 a.m. the next morning. Their flight will leave Louisville at 9:05 a.m.

Team Kentucky will return to Louisville on Sunday, June 12. They will be scheduled to land at 11:50 a.m.

Special Olympics Kentucky will send 37 athletes, seven Unified partners and 14 coaches to the Games. They will compete in eight sports – artistic gymnastics, bocce, bowling, flag football, golf, swimming, track and field and Unified basketball. In addition, a three-person team including an athlete, a Unified partner and an advisor will travel with Team Kentucky to participate in the Youth Leadership Experience at the Games.

For more information about Team Kentucky or about the USA Games, contact Special Olympics Kentucky Director of Communications and External Relations Mark Buerger at 502-695-8222 or mbuerger@soky.org.

The 2022 USA Games are the fifth such games in Special Olympics history. Past USA Games were held in 2006 in Ames, Iowa; 2010 in Lincoln, Neb.; in 2014 in New Jersey; and in 2018 in Seattle, Wash.

Olivia Whitehead

Kentucky has had tremendous success at the USA National Games. The 2018 team included 45 athletes and set records for the state by capturing 50 medals, with 19 Golds. In 2014 Team Kentucky’s 38 athletes won 36 medals, including 18 Golds. The 2010 Team Kentucky group consisted of 39 athletes and claimed 34 medals, including 10 Golds. The 2006 USA Games team saw 42 athletes capture 42 medals, including 18 Golds.

The 2022 Special Olympics USA Games, scheduled for June 5-12, 2022, in Orlando, Florida, will unite more than 5,500 athletes and coaches from all 50 states and the Caribbean. The USA Games will offer 19 Olympic-style team and individual sports, including athletics (track & field), basketball, bocce, bowling, cheerleading, equestrian, flag football, golf, gymnastics, open water swimming, powerlifting, soccer, softball, stand up paddleboard, surfing, swimming, tennis, triathlon and volleyball.
Special Olympics is the world’s largest program of sports training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

Participation in competitive events is open to all individuals eight years of age or older. Training and competition in local, area, state, and national programs is offered year-round in Kentucky in 15 sports. In addition to its traditional sports competitions, Special Olympics also offers early childhood programming through the Young Athletes Program and medical screenings though the Healthy Athletes Initiative. Special Olympics Kentucky began as a one-day event in Louisville in 1970 and has expanded to serve more than 11,300 athletes statewide annually. Special Olympics celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the global movement in 2018.

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