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Five Kiwis chosen to carry Olympic Torch in Italy

For immediate release

Five Kiwis chosen to carry Olympic Torch in Italy

Five inspirational Kiwis chosen to represent New Zealand in the Winter Olympic Torch Relay in Italy next January are being announced today.

The five torch bearers are:

Rosanna Blong of Auckland - professional ice skater and dedicated coach to New Zealand's next wave of talented ice-skating professionals

Elizabeth Matthews of Auckland - curling coach and founding member of the Auckland curling club

Tim Brown of Palmerston North - retired Professor of Microbiology from Massey University who has made a significant contribution to public health

Davi Jea of Auckland - born in a refugee camp after her family fled the Khmer Rouge, now a New Zealander who speaks several languages who works with refugees herself

Mijo Wilson of Dunedin - Dunedin student and aspiring Olympic umpire

New Zealand Olympic Committee and Samsung, the official sponsor of the torch relay, urged the public to nominate Kiwis who united their communities in sport, education and culture.

NZOC Secretary General Barry Maister said there were 500 nominations for torchbearers from around the country and the judging panel, made up of Olympians, had a challenging job whittling the list down to five.

"The five people selected were uplifting individuals who deserve to unite the world with the Olympic Flame," Mr Maister said.

Kurt Jovais, General Manager - Corporate marketing, Samsung, said: "The torchbearers are Kiwis who emphasise what makes us alike, not what sets us apart, whose positive attitudes lift the spirits of those around them and who actively seek to experience life's adventures and challenges large and small.

"Despite the five bearing a torch for one of the world's greatest competitions, they all know that life is not always about winning," Mr Jovais said.

Samsung, The Olympic Partner (TOP) in the wireless communications category, is giving 1500 people worldwide the opportunity to carry the torch including five New Zealanders.

The five torchbearers will receive an all expenses paid trip to Italy to participate in the relay which crosses through all provinces of Italy covering approximately 11,300km and involving more than 10,000 torchbearers.

The relay begins in Rome on 8 December 2005, arriving in Torino for the start of the Olympic Winter Games on 10 February 2006. The Kiwis will be running in Venice on January 18.

It was the task of four Olympians - Simon Wi Rutene, Tomas Huppert, Barry Maister, and Pamela Bell - as well as Jean-Phillipe Diel, of Samsung, to determine which five New Zealand's would represent our country and help ignite the Winter Olympic Games.

ENDS

Profiles on New Zealand torchbearers

Rosanna Blong

Professional ice skater

Rosanna and her family are dedicated to their professions and passionate about ice skating. Rosanna has represented New Zealand in ice-skating for more than 15 years. Her brother was the New Zealand Ice Hockey Captain and her family owns Auckland's Paradise Ice Skating Rinks.

Rosanna is a dedicated coach to New Zealand's next wave of talented new ice-skating professionals and a few would be ice-skaters also train under her expertise. Ice-skating is still considered a fringe sport but nothing compared to the minority sport it once was when Rosanna was training to represent New Zealand professionally on the international scene. Rosanna and her brother had to train overseas to find enough competition and motivation to continue in the competitive professional scene.

Rosanna is impressed with the results our latest young ice-skating champions representing New Zealand's are achieving on the world stage.

Rosanna is very articulate and passionate about her sport. She is a mother of two and manages to never miss a training session even if she has been into A&E the night before training!

Davi Jea

Applications Support Analyst at Middlemore Hospital and New Zealand Refugee Resettlement Volunteer

Davi is an inspiring young woman who has triumphed over adversity. She arrived in New Zealand at the age of nine, not able to speak a word of English. Her parents fled Vietnam and the Khmer Rouge regime and came to New Zealand on a refugee sponsorship programme.

Determined to immerse herself in New Zealand culture, she quickly taught herself English and then became the spokesperson for the family. A love of language led her to becoming fluent in English, Cantonese, Mandarin and Japanese.

After achieving an A bursary - university was the next step where she graduated from Auckland University with a Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Science - not bad for a person who could not speak a word of English at the age of 9 years.

Davi currently works for Health Alliance as an IS application support analyst. In her spare time she volunteers for the RMS (refugee resettlement) which helps new refugees settle into New Zealand.

Davi is articulate and passionate about New Zealand. Life highlights have included volunteering for DOC and travelling around New Zealand helping with conservation and working in the National Parks. She has not been out of New Zealand since she arrived and is honoured and excited about representing New Zealand in the Olympic Torch Relay.

Mijo (pronounced Me-low) Wilson

Student at Otago Polytechnic and University studying Sport management and Philosophy

Mijo is passionate about all things sporting. Currently studying sports management and philosophy, in his spare time he can be found either playing, coaching or umpiring hockey.

Mijo has always dreamed of representing New Zealand at the Olympics. Ask him how he feels to be going to the Olympic Winter Games and you will receive a passionate "wicked" followed by a rave about how excited he is to get a first hand opportunity to see what it takes to organise and stage the Games.

His umpiring skills are already being used on the international arena, umpiring the test series between the Under 16 New Zealand boys verses Queensland.

Tim Brown

Reitred Professor of Microbiology - Massey University

He is well known in the scientific community for his work reducing the death rate from amoebic meningitis which breeds in hot water. His work has seen changes to the standards of hot pools increase and consequently no deaths have occurred from this disease since 1984. Tim can proudly say that he has visited both ends of the globe having been on research expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctica.

Diagnosed with polio at the age of 9, Tim learnt early about hard work and commitment, he overcame the crippling disease with swimming therapy. A love for skiing has seen Tim patrolling the Ruapehu Mountain for five years, still an active skier, Tim is extremely honoured to be carrying the Winter Olympic Torch in Italy, in fact he intends to extend his trip to Italy in order to watch several of the events in the Olympic Winter Games.

Elizabeth Matthews

Teacher and passionate curler

Elizabeth Matthews is delighted to be celebrating her 60th birthday whilst carrying the Winter Olympic Torch for New Zealand in Italy.

An active and passionate curler, Elizabeth has had a huge impact on the sport. She is one of the foundation members of the Auckland Curling Club, she had curling sanctioned as a Secondary School Sport, organises and runs the Auckland and North Island Secondary Schools Curling Competition, she coaches the New Zealand Junior Woman's Curling Team and even finds time to Captain the New Zealand Senior Woman's Curling Team who represented our country at the World Senior's in Canada, Sweden, Scotland, Denmark and they are currently ranked 13th in the World.

Elizabeth is currently pursing councils for the acquisition of land on which to build a dedicated curling rink in the Auckland region. The first curling rink opened earlier this year in Naseby, in Central Otago.

Elizabeth is a PE teacher at Birkenhead College, on Auckland's North Shore.

She is a curling expert and her fervor for the sport leaves you wanting to give curling a try!

The five Kiwis depart for Venice on 15 January 2006

Samung's involvement

Samsung is supporting five New Zealanders in their quest to take part in the Olympic Torch Relay.

Samsung is one of the world's largest producers of mobile phone handsets. Since 1997, it has been The Olympic Partner (TOP) in the Wireless Communications Equipment category.

Samsung was a partner of the first ever global Olympic Torch Relay for Athens 2004 and is continuing its official sponsorship of the Relay at the Olympic Winter Games in Torino 2006.

Torch Relay History

Fire is a sacred symbol dating back to prehistoric times. In ancient Greece it represented the creation of the world, renewal and light.

Torch relay races started in ancient Greece as religious rituals held at night. Later, they turned into a team athletic event, initially among adolescents, and then into one of the most popular ancient sports.

The torch relay was revived in the Berlin Olympiad in 1936 and since then, has preceded every Olympic Summer Games. Since then, the magic of the flame has marked the beginning of the Olympic Games.

In Olympiads that followed, the torch relay has continued to play an important role, enriched with the characteristics and cultures of the countries hosting the Olympics. The choice of the athlete who lights the cauldron in the Olympic stadium is always significant for the host country.

In the build up to Sydney 2000, the flame journeyed underwater in the Great Barrier Reef and covered the longest distance in the history of the Games so far.

Athens 2004 Olympic Torch Relay, presented by Samsung and Coke Cola, witnessed the first global journey of the flame. It traveled across five continents, through 35 cities and 27 countries.

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