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Co-ops support gymnast's high-flying dreams

The ring tone on Tonya Cornett's mobile phone says it all. When friends and family call, the Olympic Games' theme song plays.

"I've been a fan of the Olympics for as long as I can remember, and I always liked watching gymnastics," she said, explaining why she became a competitive gymnast.


Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives served as the platinum sponsor of Special Olympics Kentucky’s State Summer Games where athletes like rhythmic gymnast Tonya Cornett competed.

 

The thrill of competition drives Cornett to adhere to a strict training regimen. For three to six hours a day, she's in the gym perfecting a skill set that includes strength, agility and no small amount of fearlessness necessary to accomplish high-flying gymnastic routines.

Such dedication has been rewarding. A collection of gold, silver and bronze medals decorate the gymnast's rural Bourbon County home. Cornett hopes to add a few more awards in the weeks ahead.

She was among more than 1,400 athletes who competed in Special Olympics Kentucky's State Summer Games June 1–3 at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond. Kentucky's Touchstone Energy Cooperatives were again a platinum sponsor of the event that helps people with intellectual disabilities gain confidence through sports training and competition.

At age 47, Cornett is a veteran of the games. She has been a Special Olympics athlete for 27 years and has competed in gymnastics for 22 of them.

In July, she will join the Team Kentucky gymnastics delegation to compete at the USA Games in Seattle, Washington.

"We call ourselves the Kentucky Fab Five, like the U.S. gymnasts who won gold in Rio," Cornett said.

Rubbing elbows with the athletic elite is nothing new for the Kentucky gymnast. She earned a silver medal in the all-around rhythmic gymnastics competition at the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Dublin, Ireland.

Cornett is often the oldest athlete in her gymnastics contests these days. Still, she has no plans to retire from the gym, Special Olympics Kentucky or what she enjoys most: the cheering crowds and volunteers who support Special Olympians.