The Cincinnati area can cheer on for a local in the 2015 Special Olympics World Games, which begins this Saturday in Los Angeles.
Danielle Blakeney, 24, of Erlanger in Northern Kentucky will compete with 7,000 athletes from 177 countries in this global celebration of skill, courage, teamwork and joy.
Blakeney, who has been a Special Olympics athlete for 17 years, is the only participant from Northern Kentucky and one of three from the state. She will compete in rhythmic gymnastics this year, and the preliminary competition will begin at 5:30 p.m. EST on Sunday, July 26. In the past, she has also competed in artistic gymnastics, track and field and cheerleading.
“Special Olympics is important to me ... because it lets me learn to be the best I can be, has given me great friends and coaches and the chance to travel that I would otherwise not have ever had,” Blakeney said in a statement. “I have become a more confident person and stronger against people being mean.”
This will be Blakeney’s second Special Olympics World Games. In 2011, she won three Gold, one Silver and one Bronze medal in Athens, Greece, and she also competed in the USA Games in 2010 and 2014. She is an advocate for the Special Olympics in her home state, having traveled to the Kentucky capitol earlier this year to support a tax return donation bill.
According to the Special Olympics website, “Through the power of sport, Special Olympics strives to create a better world by fostering the acceptance and inclusion of all people.” It has been an annual event since its beginning in 1968.
The games will run through August 2 and are expected to attract 80,000 spectators in-house and millions more watching the ESPN broadcast. The opening ceremonies will be broadcast live on ESPN Saturday at 8 p.m. EST.
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Photo: Blakeney competed in the Special Olympics Kentucky State Summer Games last month. (Credit: provided to The Cincinnati Enquirer)
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