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Vision Impaired Games 2001

From: The Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind

For only the second time in fifteen years the South Island is hosting 80 blind and sight-impaired students from Cape Reinga to the Bluff at the biannual Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind Vision Impaired Games.

The students aged from 9 years to 20 years will be competing in swimming and track and field events in teams against their peers from 25 to 28 February in Christchurch.

Peter Madden, National Peer Support Co-ordinator, says "The Vision Impaired Games are staged once every two years for three days, giving blind and sight-impaired youth the opportunity to test their own abilities by competing against each other and building strong peer support networks in the process.

"They serve to motivate young blind and sight-impaired athletes on to greater achievement with a number of past participants going on to international success. Tim Prendergast, who attended the Games in 1991, 1993, 1995 and 1997, went on to win two silver medals at last year's Paralympics in Sydney. He is just one example of athletes that gain valuable experience at the Games.

"This year we are expecting great performances from Jana Simonson, 13 (Canterbury) and Daniel Sharp, 13 (Auckland)."

This year's teams are coming from Northland, Auckland, East Coast, Waikato, West Coast, Wellington, Nelson, Canterbury and Otago/Southland accompanied by 20 escorts.

The games kick off on Sunday with an opening ceremony blessed by the local Tangata Whenua and launched by Minister of Disabilities, Lianne Dalziel.

Participants will get their photos taken and a representative from each region will swear them in by asking them to repeat a fair play oath aloud.

The competitions begin on Monday at Christchurch's QEII stadium (hosted by the Canterbury Athletics Association) with the track and field competitions - including sprint events, distance events and long jump, discus/frisbee, shot put and cricketball throw.

The swimming events, which are hosted by the Canterbury Westland Swimming Association at the Kaiapoi Aquatic Centre on Tuesday, include backstroke, freestyle and breaststroke.

Social events are also part of the Vision Impaired Games agenda. Monday night is 'talent show' night - hosted by a local entertainer. Tuesday afternoon after the competitions are over, the students head into Christchurch for ten-pin bowling and later that evening there will be a prize giving ceremony followed by a disco. And on Wednesday - the day of departure - the students head into Christchurch for a ride on the tram, lunch in Botanic Gardens and a two-hour visit the Antarctic Centre, before heading homeward.

"There are 1200 blind and sight-impaired students in New Zealand - very often they are separated and feel isolated from their peers because of school mainstreaming and rural locations," says Mr Madden.

"The Vision Impaired Games brings blind and sight-impaired students together to share their experience. Networks are established and the students are encouraged to maintain contact and support each other.

"And regardless of backgrounds, eye conditions and where they live, all participants enjoy the opportunity to meet and interact with other blind and sight-impaired students from across New Zealand."

Students and their supervisors will be staying at the Blue Skies Conference and Training Centre in Kaiapoi.

-ends-

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