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Four Special Olympics Athletes Go To Japan

Media Release

For immediate release

12 February 2004

Four Special Olympics Athletes Go To Japan For Winter Games

On Tuesday, 17th February, a team of four Special Olympics athletes and three coaches will be flying away from New Zealand’s scorching heat to touch down in the middle of Japan’s icy winter to participate in the 2004 Special Olympics Nippon National Winter Games.

The athletes, who are competing in skiing and ice-skating, have been training for almost six months to be at their best for the Games. Their training, however, has had to extend far beyond the sports field, with the athletes needing to come to terms with living for two weeks in a country where English is not the first language, and meals are very different to our Western cuisine.

“A month ago we visited a Japanese restaurant in order to try out the unusual food and practice our Japanese,” says Dave Pryor who’s traveling with the team as the Head of the Delegation. “The athletes really enjoyed the experience and are very excited about the trip.”

Duncan Sheffield (skiing), Nicholas Apperley (ice-skating), Michael Holdsworth (skiing) and Peter Cullwick (skiing) were picked for their outstanding abilities in their relative sports. Accompanied by Mr Pryor and Coaches Brian Benn and Eric Apperley, the team of seven are the first New Zealand team to be invited to the Games in Japan, and it’s hoped that the invitation will become a regular one.

“Going overseas is a fantastic opportunity for these athletes as it enables them to compete against a wider variety of athletes at their level, and to learn new skills both on and off the sports arena,” says Special Olympics New Zealand Chairman Robin Sheffield. “I am pleased Special Olympics received the invitation and hope to extend a reciprocal one to Special Olympics Japan for our own National Winter Games to be held in August this year.”

“I’m very proud of the team’s achievements and wish them all the best,” says Mr Sheffield. “However, we have an oath in Special Olympics which we always adhere to: ‘Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt’. I would be delighted if any of our athletes were to win medals, but I will be just as pleased knowing that they have been brave in their attempt.”


Duncan Sheffield is a member of Special Olympics Tamaki (Auckland) and is involved in skiing and tenpin bowling. Nicholas Apperley and his father Eric have been involved in ice-skating for over three years with Special Olympics Canterbury. Michael Holdsworth skis and swims competitively with Special Olympics Wellington and Peter Cullwick, who lives in Napier, skis and plays soccer for Special Olympics Hawkes Bay.

The 2004 Nippon National Winter Games are being held for three days from the 27th - 29th February, with the team away from the 17tth February to the 2nd of March. All media are invited to farewell the team at Auckland airport on the 17tth, and to welcome them home to their domestic airports on the 2nd March.

Notes for Editors: Special Olympics New Zealand (SONZ) is a registered charitable organisation which has operated throughout New Zealand since 1983. It is dedicated to providing sports training and competition for children and adults with an intellectual disability. SONZ emphasises participation for individuals at all levels of ability, achieving personal best performances, and regular coaching, training and competition for all athletes. Just under 3500 athletes currently participate on a regular basis. SONZ is supported by Sky City Auckland, SPARC and Provender.

Special Olympics was founded in the US in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver. There are more than 150 accredited national programmes world wide. The flagship events for the movement are the international Special Olympics World Games, which are held every two years alternating between summer and winter games. The last summer games were held in Dublin, Ireland, in June 2003. New Zealand athletes brought home 60 medals, including 20 gold.

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