Three athletes and a coach from NKY will participate in the Special Olympics USA 2022 Games in Orlando


In just under three weeks, a Special Olympics athlete from Northern Kentucky, two unified partners and a coach will be on their way to the 2022 Special Olympics USA in Orlando, Florida.

The Union’s Maddie Brinkman will swim at the Games for Team Kentucky swim coach Debbie Ogden of Ft. Wright. Cold Spring’s Michelle Goderwis and Newport’s Olivia Whitehead will both be part of the University of Louisville unified basketball team that will compete as part of Team Kentucky. This is the first unified team 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 trip to the United States. She works at Panera Bread in Union.

Maddie Brinkman (left) and Debbie Ogden (Special Olympics Kentucky photos)

Ogden, who coached Brinkman with the Dolphins, will be the Kentucky swim coach for the second straight US Games. Ogden swimmers won nine medals at the 2018 Games in Seattle, Washington. She has been a Special Olympics coach for 15 years, but has worked with people with intellectual disabilities for almost 35 years. In addition to coaching Special Olympics, Ogden has also coached the Ludlow/Bromley swimming and diving team, the St. Agnes School track and field team, and the fifth-grade volleyball team. from St. Agnes School in Fort Wright. She is a Senior Executive Assistant in the Developmental Department at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

Goderwis, 20, is a sophomore at the University of Louisville majoring in economics and sustainability. She graduated from Bishop Brossart High School in Alexandria, where she ran track and field 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 football 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 originally from Newport where she graduated from Newport Central Catholic High School. Whitehead played four years of college football for the Thoroughbreds, captaining the team as a senior. During her time at UdeL, she participated in unified basketball, petanque and human table football. She also loves snowboarding. Whitehead majors in bioengineering and plans to become a medical assistant or work developing new prostheses.

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

The Kentucky team will return to Louisville on Sunday, June 12. They will 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, pétanque, bowling, flag football, golf, swimming, track and field and unified basketball. Additionally, a three-person team consisting of an athlete, unified partner, and counselor will travel with Team Kentucky to participate in the Youth Leadership Experience at the Games.

For more information about Team Kentucky or the United States Games, contact Special Olympics Kentucky Communications and Outreach Director Mark Buerger at 502-695-8222 or [email protected]

The 2022 U.S. Games are the fifth such games in Special Olympics history. The previous US 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 US National Games. The 2018 team included 45 athletes and set state records by winning 50 medals, including 19 gold medals. In 2014, the 38 athletes on the Kentucky team won 36 medals, including 18 gold medals. The 2010 Team Kentucky group consisted of 39 athletes and won 34 medals, including 10 gold medals. The 2006 US Games team saw 42 athletes win 42 medals, including 18 gold medals.

The 2022 Special Olympics USA Games, scheduled for June 5-12, 2022 in Orlando, Florida, will bring together more than 5,500 athletes and coaches from all 50 states and the Caribbean. The U.S. Games will feature 19 Olympic-style team and individual sports, including track and field (track and field), basketball, bocce, bowling, cheerleading, equestrian, flag football, golf, gymnastics, open water swimming, powerlifting, soccer, softball, stand up paddleboarding, surfing, swimming, tennis, triathlon and volleyball.

Special Olympics is the world’s largest sports training and competition program for children and adults with developmental disabilities.

Participation in the competitions is open to all persons aged eight or over. Training and competition in local, regional, state and national programs are offered year-round in Kentucky in 15 sports. In addition to its traditional athletic competitions, Special Olympics also offers early childhood programs through the Young Athletes Program and health screenings through the Healthy Athletes Initiative. Special Olympics Kentucky began as a one-day event in Louisville in 1970 and has grown to serve more than 11,300 athletes statewide each year. Special Olympics celebrated the 50th anniversary of the global movement in 2018.


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