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Special Olympians Reach For The Pinnacle

26 August 2004

Special Olympians Reach For The Pinnacle

This weekend sees some top Special Olympics athletes head to the slopes of Cardrona Ski Field in Wanaka to test their skills at the 2004 Special Olympics New Zealand National Winter Games.

Held once every four years, the Games open on Saturday 28 August, with skiing and snowboard racing continuing for almost a week.

The 33 participants in this year’s event will have the chance to compete for positions in the New Zealand team to go to the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, in February 2005 - the pinnacle of a Special Olympics winter athlete’s sporting career.

“The World Winter Games in Nagano will involve around 2,500 athletes from 80 countries,” says Special Olympics New Zealand Chief Executive Angus McLeod. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for our athletes, and the National Games in New Zealand are the perfect chance for them to show they are worthy of representing New Zealand overseas.”

Wellington based athlete Michael Holdsworth, a regular attendant at the National Winter Games, knows all about competing at such a high level. Michael competed in the World Winter Games in Austria in 1993, and in February this year won a bronze medal at the Nagano National Winter Games, a preliminary event to the 2005 World Winter Games.

Michael particularly enjoys the New Zealand event: “I’m really looking forward to it; I always have a good time every time I go there,” he says.

Snow sports are becoming more popular with New Zealand Special Olympians all the time.

Annual Special Olympics Winter Sports Camps have been held in the South Island for the last 14 years, and have included four National Winter Games. The success of the camps prompted Special Olympics to introduce a North Island equivalent three years ago, and numbers attending both are rising every year.

“Luckily, thanks particularly to the support of the SKYCITY Auckland Community Trust and the Lion Foundation we’re able to cater for the increasing numbers, “Angus McLeod said. “We’re now thinking of adding another week to the South Island event to enable more athletes to attend, and ski weekends and Sunday programmes have been developed to cater for those who want to participate more regularly.” ENDS

The 2004 Special Olympics National Winter Games run from Saturday 28 August to Friday 3 September, with medal ceremonies on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. See the attached timetable. For further information on Special Olympics contact: Angus McLeod Special Olympics New Zealand 04 801 2532 0274 479 499

To attend the Games for interviews and photos, or for a photo taken at the event, contact: Natalie Fountain Special Olympics New Zealand 04 801 2532 0275 637 088

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 3600 athletes currently participate on a regular basis. SONZ is supported by the SKYCITY Auckland Community Trust (SKYCITY has been our major sponsor since 1996), 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. The next international event in which New Zealand will compete is the World Winter Games to be held in Nagano, Japan, in mid February 2005.

ENDS

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