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Erlanger Gymnast Heads to Special Olympics World Summer Games

After a year of preparation, rhythmic gymnast Danielle Blakeney will travel to the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games this week.

Blakeney, of Erlanger, will leave for Los Angeles on Tuesday with her three Kentucky Special Olympics USA teammates and three coaches who will serve at the Games.

The Games will open on Saturday, July 25, with an opening ceremony that for the first time will be shown live on ESPN. The Ceremony will begin at 8 p.m. Eastern.

Blakeney will open competition on Sunday, July 26, with preliminary competition beginning at 5:30 p.m. Eastern. Her finals will be held on Wednesday, July 28, at 2:30 a.m. Eastern. Any medals she may win will be presented on July 28 as well.

The 2015 World Games close on Sunday, August 2, with a Closing Ceremony.

Blakeney, 24, will compete in rhythmic gymnastics at the Games. She is a veteran of higher level Special Olympics competition, having been part of Team USA at the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens, Greece, and Team Kentucky for the 2010 and 2014 USA Games. In Athens, Blakeney won the all-around competition in rhythmic gymnastics, amassing three Golds with one Silver and one Bronze. At the 2014 USA Games in New Jersey, Blakeney earned three Gold and two Silver Medals in artistic gymnastics. She dominated her division in rhythmic gymnastics at the 2010 USA Games, winning the all-around competition among her four Gold Medals and one Silver. She has been a Special Olympics athlete for 17 years and also has competed in track and field. She was named the Special Olympics Kentucky Co-Athlete of the Year for 2010.

Blakeney joins six other Kentuckians as part of the Special Olympics USA team. Bowler Amanda Browning of Shepherdsville, artisticgymnast Lee Dockins of Russellville and swimmer Chris Willis of Owensboro will also compete at the Games. Three of the four Kentucky selections have prior World Games Experience. Browning has never competed at the World Games, but was part of Team Kentucky for the 2014 USA Games last year in New Jersey.

The four athletes will be joined by coaches Robyn Ballinger of Louisville, Julie Coon of Harrodsburg and Mary Fehrenbach of Lexington. Ballinger is a bowling assistant coach. Coon is an equestrian assistant coach. Fehrenbach will be Special Olympics USA’s head gymnasticscoach. Coon and Fehrenbach have both coached at the World Games before. Ballinger is making her first World Games trip.

This is the first time since 1999 that the World Summer Games have been held in the United States. From 1968 through 1999 all World Games event were held in the USA, but recent events have been held in Ireland (2003), Shanghai (2007) and Athens (2011). The 2015 World Summer Games will bring together 7,000 Special Olympics athletes and 3,000 coaches from 177 countries to compete in 24 sports at what will be the biggest sporting event in the world this year. 

-Staff report