Athletes Show Talents in Special Olympics Gymnastics Competition

By Lauren Wanko

Gymnast Molly Herbert was born with genetic cerebral palsy. Doctors told her parents she’d never walk, talk or run, let alone compete in the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games. But here she is.

“I’m very excited. It makes me happy,” Molly said.

“This is her moment. For 22 years, this has been coming. She’s got that will, that drive and determination all of us should dream of having,” said Molly’s mom, Diane.

“I commend her. She inspires me,” said Assistant Coach Shannon Schafer.

Molly’s a member of Gymnastics’ Team New Jersey, comprised of three athletes and two coaches. They call themselves the Fab Five.

“Because we’re fabulous,” said Alyssa Sims.

“These young ladies, I tell you there’s a reason we call ourselves the Fab Five. My heart is filled every time I work with them,” said Schafer.

Molly says she loves gymnastics because of her coaches.

“They both love me and they are part of my family,” she said.

Together, the team practiced for the past nine months leading up to the events.

“There’s a lot of growth, not only physically, with their performance, but emotional aspects,” said Head Coach Donna Roberto.

This is the artistic gymnastics preliminary where athletes are placed in divisions based on similar ability level. Each athlete competes in four events — vault, bars, balance beam and floor exercise.

“Oh I can’t wait. I’m so happy. I’m so glad,” said Lee Dockins of Team Kentucky.

Lee is thrilled to be part of the games.

“I work so hard on it. It’s my dream. It’s my favorite sports — gymnastics,” Lee said.

Teammate Danielle Blenkeney’s advice for her fellow athletes?

“Be exercised, be as flexible as you can be and go out there and bring home some golds,” she said.

Although these champions do want go back home with that gold medal, they cheer each other on along the journey.

“We put no pressure on each other. We have lot of fun. It’s about having fun and being uplifting and lifting other people’s spirits,” said Alyssa.

And they are all so grateful for this experience.

“I don’t want to cry on this video, but thank you so much,” Lee said.

“We feel blessed to be here,” said Alyssa.

The gymnastics finals are scheduled for Thursday.