Photo submitted Lee and her parents Harris and Sharon Dockins.

Photo submitted

Lee and her parents Harris and Sharon Dockins.

Russellville gymnast Lee Dockins is preparing to embark on a journey like no other. With her spot secured on the Special Olympics USA Team, she is heading to compete at the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi to be held March 14-21. Lee will compete in rhythmic gymnastics for the first time at the World Games level.

"This will be the opportunity of a lifetime for Lee," said Sharon Dockins, Lee's mother. "The chance to experience a new culture and meet athletes from all over the world. We are so proud of Lee and all of her accomplishments. She has literally taken us around the world."

Special Olympics Kentucky released a bio of Lee and her career of accomplishments as an athlete.

Dockins, 31, is a veteran of World and USA Games events and has won more World Games medals than any Special Olympics Kentucky athlete. She competed in artistic gymnastics at the 2007 World Summer Games in Shanghai, China, the 2011 Games in Athens, Greece and the 2015 Games in Los Angeles.

At the 2007 World Games, Dockins won gold medals in the floor exercise and vault as well as a silver in the uneven bars on her way to a fourth-place finish in the all-around. She followed that up in 2011 with a five-medal performance that included gold in the all-around, beam and floor exercises, another silver in the uneven bars and a bronze in vault. She defended her all-around title in 2015 with another gold medal, as well as winning gold again in the beam and floor exercise. She also scored a bronze medal in uneven bars.

Dockins is coming off a stellar performance in artistic gymnastics at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games, held this past July in Seattle, Wash. Dockins earned five medals, with one of her three golds being the all-around title. It was her first USA Games all-around gold in three tries. Dockins was part of an ESPN feature during those Games that looked at the Kentucky "Fab Five" -- the five gymnasts Kentucky sent to Seattle.

Dockins is one of four Special Olympics athletes currently featured in an exhibit at the Smithsonian's Museum of American History that commemorates the 50th Anniversary of Special Olympics. The exhibit includes the leotard and hand grips Dockins wore at the 2007 World Games.

Dockins will be joined on the Special Olympics USA Team in Abu Dhabi by fellow Kentuckians Tonya Cornett, who will compete in artistic gymnastics, and by Mary Fehrenbach who will once again serve as the Special Olympics USA head gymnastics coach. Both Cornett and Fehrenbach are from Lexington and both were part of the 2018 USA Games effort. It will be Cornett's second trip to the World Games, having competed in rhythmic gymnastics in 2003. It is Fehrenbach's sixth World Games. She also coached at the Games in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015.

The 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games will be the first time the World Games have been held in the Middle East. The Games are expected to bring together more than 7,000 athletes from 170 countries to compete. This will be the fourth time that the World Summer Games have been held outside the United States. The others were in 2003 in Dublin, Ireland; 2007 in Shanghai, China and 2011 in Athens, Greece.

For more information about the Kentucky athletes and coach named to the Special Olympics USA Team for the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games, contact Special Olympics Kentucky President and CEO Trish Mazzoni at 800-633-7403 or via email at tmazzoni@soky.org.

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 are 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 through the Healthy Athletes Initiative. Special Olympics Kentucky began as a one-day event in Louisville in 1970 and has expanded to serve more than 8,900 athletes statewide annually. Special Olympics celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2018.