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Unsung Sporting Heroes 'Race' To The Line

Unsung Sporting Heroes 'Race' To The Line

With just one week to go in the search for the nation's most deserving sports volunteers, Kiwis are racing to ensure their unsung heroes get the recognition they deserve in the quest run by New Zealand Olympic team sponsor Visa.

Three lucky people will be chosen from the online nominations by a VIP judging panel to each win a $25,000 trip to the ATHENS 2004 Olympic Games, provided by Visa.

Belinda Leonard, Country Manager for Visa New Zealand, says "The number of online entries received in the Visa Supporters Search has risen dramatically in the past few days, recording the fastest growth spurt since it launched six weeks ago."

In particular, recent nominations have come in from some of New Zealand's smallest communities - Great Barrier Island, Hikurangi, Mosgiel, Taihape, Picton and Clyde - as well as the major centres.

All 28 Olympics sports are represented through the nominations, reflecting the bedrock of voluntary support in New Zealand sport - from coaches (the most popular category so far) and event organizers to club fundraisers, trainers and parents.

One particular nominee has been put forward by 14 different people, all keen to acknowledge his passion, loyalty and commitment to his sport over many years.

According to NZOC Secretary-general, Barry Maister, "This country is full of volunteers giving their time and support, sometimes without thanks or recognition, to give other Kiwis the chance to succeed. This Visa supporters search is the perfect opportunity to reward those who do so much for others."

Not only will these unsung heroes get to enjoy national recognition and the trip of a lifetime, but the person putting them forward also gets to go.

Working through the nominations to determine the three most deserving volunteer supporters are a trio of former Olympians who know first hand the importance of the army of Kiwi volunteers who make sport possible.

Heading the panel, New Zealand's most successful Olympic athlete, kayaker Ian Ferguson acknowledges that minority sports like his would 'wither and die if it weren't for the support of volunteer supporters'.

He is joined by his son, swimmer turned kayaker, Steven Ferguson and New Zealand's most capped hockey player Anna Lawrence who is working as athlete liaison officer for the NZ Olympic Team at The Games.

Nominations close next Friday, July 2 and Visa expects a flurry of last-minute entries as sports clubs around the country rush to put forward their volunteer stalwarts.

Nominations can be made online by visiting

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