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Special Olympics Ambassador Returning To NZ

For immediate release
21 March 2005

International Special Olympics Ambassador Returning To NZ

Special Olympics New Zealand (SONZ), the organisation that promotes sporting opportunities to people with an intellectual disability, announced today that Special Olympics, in association with SKYCITY Auckland Community Trust, is again hosting Special Olympics Global Ambassador Loretta Claiborne in New Zealand.

Ms Claiborne first visited this country last year to help celebrate SONZ’s 21st anniversary. New Zealand was so taken with her, and she with New Zealand, that she is returning to New Zealand this week to work in schools and interact with various audiences around the country.

“We are delighted that Loretta has agreed to come back to these shores,” said SONZ Chief Executive Angus McLeod. “Anyone who heard her present during her visit last June will agree that she is one of the most inspirational speakers ever to visit us.”

Ms Claiborne will be in New Zealand from 23 March to 7 April and will be attending events and school gatherings in Auckland, Whangarei, Wellington and Christchurch.

Highlights of her tour include:

- Lunch at SKYCITY with SONZ Special Ambassador Jonah Lomu
- Parliamentary lunch hosted by the Minister of Sport and Recreation, Hon Trevor Mallard, welcoming home the highly successful SONZ World Winter Games team from Japan
- Launch of the SONZ National and Asia-Pacific Games
- SONZ street appeal in association with SKYCITY
- Launch of a school book about Ms Claiborne’s life.

Loretta Claiborne has dedicated her life to showing that those with developmental difficulties are uniquely talented but often overlooked or ignored. Despite being born partially blind, mildly intellectually disabled and unable to walk until the age of 4, Ms Claiborne untapped athletic and public speaking talent to amazing effect.

She has run 25 marathons and competed successfully in seven Special Olympics World Games. She has been awarded many notable honours including the 1996 ESPY Arthur Ashe Award for courage from ESPN.

Ms Claiborne was the title subject of a Disney movie and a school text about her life story, In Her Stride, is about to be published.

Meanwhile, SONZ is pleased to announce the appointment of former Olympic weightlifter Nigel Avery as an Ambassador.

“Nigel’s story is another inspirational one and he’s an excellent presenter,” said Angus McLeod. “We’re delighted to welcome him to the fold along with Jonah, Beatrice Faumuina, Dick Quax, Jayne Kiely, Melissa Moon and Mark Sorenson.

All of these people will help Loretta Claiborne tell the very special Special Olympics story.”

For more information on Loretta Claiborne, see www.lorettaclaiborne.com. She will be available for interviews throughout her visit to New Zealand.

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 3100 athletes currently participate on a regular basis. SONZ is supported by SKYCITY Auckland Community Trust (SKYCITY has been our principal 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 most recent international event in which New Zealand competed was the World Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, in mid February 2005. Six athletes brought home 11 medals, including 4 gold.

The largest Special Olympics event ever held in New Zealand, the SONZ National and Asia-Pacific Invitation Games, will be held in Christchurch in November/December 2005. Some 2000 athletes are expected at these games, including a number from overseas.

ENDS

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