Columbia Special Olympics athlete builds friendships and enjoys success

Thursday, August 2, 2012 | 10:30 p.m. CDT; updated 11:28 p.m. CDT, Thursday, August 2, 2012
Last year, Leanna Krogman competed in the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Greece and won the Special Olympics Missouri Outstanding Athlete of 2011. On Thursday, she tried her hand at a new sport and won a bronze medal in stroke play of the Central Area Special Olympics Golf Tournament.

COLUMBIA — As Leanna Krogman and Dennis Dewey teed off in the Central Area Special Olympics Golf Tournament, they couldn't keep from smiling. 

They could not help it, after all it was the "Goose hole."

Just a few weeks ago, the doubles team was on the same sixth tee at LA Nickell Golf Course practicing for Thursday's tournament. Dewey, Krogman's stepfather, drove the ball over the par 3's small water hazard and on to the green. 

Before his drive came to a stop, it hit an obstruction, a goose. With a helpful kick from the unexpected visitor, their ball ended up a few yards from the pin.

In her five years as a Special Olympics athlete in Columbia, Krogman has accomplished a lot. She made a trip to Greece for the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games, won the 2011 Special Olympics Missouri Outstanding Athlete of 2011, and lit the torch to start the 2012 Summer Games.

However, Krogman said her greatest achievement has been meeting new friends and tackling new experiences.

"Special Olympics has become her social circle," Dewey said.

Krogman started participating in Special Olympics more than seven years ago at age 21. The competition has helped her make friends throughout Missouri. Connie Dewey, her mother, said Special Olympics athletes’ are all of her closest friends.

"They are the people she texts and talks on the phone with," Connie Dewey said. "They go to movies together and dances at the ARC."

When she first got involved with Special Olympics in Hannibal, she could only participate in three sports, track and field, basketball and bowling. After moving to Columbia, Krogman began competing year-round in seven sports.

Krogman’s ability to adjust to new sports has been a key to her success as a Special Olympics athlete.

“She is so trusting and wants to please the people, no matter who her coach is,” Connie Dewey said.

On Thursday, she demonstrated her aptitude toward new sports, earning a bronze medal in her first time competing in stroke play of the doubles golf tournament.

Diane Brimer, the central area director for Special Olympics Missouri, said Krogman’s ability to adapt to unfamiliar circumstances allowed her to be successful at the world games and win the outstanding athlete award.

“She put in the extra work and made a change for the better to work with new coaches that helped her compete in the world games,” Brimer said.

After returning from the world games, a competition with more than 7,000 athletes from around the world, she had a small press conference. Krogman wore all four medals she won in Greece. There was only one gold medal. However, it remained hidden behind the other three. To her, it made more sense to wear the medals in the order she earned them, than to show off the gold.

"Whatever she does she takes pride in," Brimer said. "For her, it wasn't about the gold medal, and that's why she embodies Special Olympics."

Krogman is shy to talk about her success and says she keeps playing because it is fun and good exercise.

Dennis Dewey, her partner on Thursday and an inexperienced golfer, has adopted Krogman's fun-first attitude. After an awry shot into the rough, he gave one serious stipulation to reporting on their match.

“Just don’t report our score,” Dewey joked.

Supervising editor is Grant Hodder.

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