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Dreams Come True For Special Olympians

Dreams Come True For Special Olympians

Media Release
For immediate release
9 February 2005

DREAMS COME TRUE FOR SPECIAL OLYMPIANS

Next week a team of 11 Special Olympics New Zealand athletes, coaches and officials are leaving the heat to travel to Japan and compete in the 2005 Nagano Special Olympics World Winter Games in Nagano.

Team members Brodie Carvalho (a skier from Otago), Sara Perkins (skier - Otago), Paul Spencer (skier - Auckland), Hamish Chand (skier - Canterbury), Robyn Harrison (skier - Otago) and Nicholas Apperley (ice figure-skater - Canterbury) and coaches Bridget Spencer (head ski coach - Wellington), Brian Benn (assistance ski coach - Otago) and Maryna Tsevina (head ice figure-skating coach - Canterbury), official Eric Apperley (ice figure-skating - Canterbury) and the Head of the Delegation Dave Pryor (Canterbury), will be realising their dream of competing at the World Games for which they have been preparing for many months.

To achieve their dream, the athletes successfully progressed through these stages to represent their country - they had to participate in a locally organised "Ribbon Day", participate in a regionally organised "Regional Games", and finally participate and perform with distinction (either win a medal - first, second or third place - or achieve a notable personal best) in the Special Olympics New Zealand "National Games". The athletes also had to be able to show that they were in good health, capable of travelling long distances and be reasonably independent.

The Special Olympics World Winter Games come around only once every four years and being chosen to join the team is an honour hard won. Last August's Special Olympics New Zealand National Winter Games saw some 37 athletes compete in winter sports events that include skiing, ice figure-skating and snowboarding, with limited positions available on the World Games team. Since their selection the 6 successful athletes have focused on raising their fitness and skill levels by following a daily gym and swim programme.

"Every Special Olympics World Winter Games that I have been involved in has been held in the Northern Hemisphere - during New Zealand's summer, so we" re used to getting around the obstacle of not being able to train in our winter sports," says Dave Pryor. "Our ice figure-skater trains indoors, so that's no problem, and we try to get in as much of the winter season with our skiers as possible before Christmas, after which we ask athletes to follow a strict exercise programme set by their coaches to keep them in top shape."

The team arrives in Japan two weeks before competition starts, to give them time to train and get used to the conditions. On 26 February they will join around 2,500 athletes from 80 countries to march into Nagano's M-Wave Arena as part of the Opening Ceremony for the Games. The following 8 days will see an atmosphere of intense competition and excitement as the athletes compete for medals and ribbons.

The Special Olympics oath, "Let me win, but if I cannot win let me be brave in the attempt," recognises that a successful athlete is not necessarily one who comes home with all the awards. For most athletes, success is all about participation, personal achievement and representing their country with pride and honour.

ENDS

Media notes:

More information about the Games can be found on the official website www.2005sowwg.com.

Team members will travel from Dunedin, Christchurch and Wellington to Auckland on Saturday 12 February, where they will stay at the Scenic Circle Airedale Hotel, 380 Queen Street, until their departure for Tokyo, Japan, early on Monday morning.


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 over 3800 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 Summer Games to be held in Shanghai, China, in 2007. New Zealand's largest ever national event, the Special Olympics New Zealand National and Asia-Pacific Invitation Games, will be held in Christchurch in November/December 2005. Some 2000 athletes are expected, including a number from overseas.

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