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Celebrity Set To Inspire Young Athletes

Media Release

14 June 2004

International Celebrity Set To Inspire Young Athletes With Disabilities At Auckland Soccer Day

Thursday 17 June sees over 240 Auckland Secondary and Special Schools students join a very special guest from the United States - internationally renowned Special Olympics athlete and Ambassador Loretta Claiborne – to participate in the annual Special Olympics New Zealand / ASB Bank College Sport Schools Soccer Day. Ms Claiborne will be remembering her time as a young athlete when she joins the group of school-aged people with intellectual disabilities as honoured guest at the event, to be held from 10am – 2pm, at the Auckland Domain.

The event, organised by Special Olympics New Zealand and ASB Bank College Sport, is designed to encourage school-aged people with an intellectual disability to get involved in sport.

Loretta Claiborne knows all about the benefits of sport with Special Olympics. She was born the middle of seven children in a poor, single-parent family, partially blind and with an intellectual disability. The discovery of her own running ability and Special Olympics changed her life. “If it weren't for sports, I wouldn't be the person I am today,” she says.

With her words in mind, Special Olympics New Zealand and ASB Bank College Sport are working hard to introduce young people with intellectual disabilities to sport.

According to Anna Gerhardi, organiser and National Schools Coordinator for Special Olympics New Zealand, “Sport not only builds skills and improves health and fitness; it leads to a boost in self confidence and increased independence. We’re thrilled that Loretta is attending the event; she is someone who our young athletes can really look up to as an example of what can be achieved, regardless of ability, through exposure to great opportunities like this.”

The Soccer Day is just one of many annual events for young people with intellectual disabilities that Special Olympics are introducing to the school environment nationally. There have already been successful athletics and cross-country events around the country and plans are in place to run more soccer and athletics competitions, along with smaller events for other sports.

Loretta Claiborne has been invited to New Zealand to speak at Special Olympics New Zealand’s 21st Anniversary Dinner, which is being held on Friday 18 June at the SKYCITY Convention Centre. Her achievements include running 25 marathons, holding a black belt in karate and an honorary doctorate, ability to speak four languages, and the fact that she has had a movie made about her.


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