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Vili Inspires 280 Special Olympians

13 April 2006


Valarie Vili Inspires 280 Special Olympians At Schools Athletics Day

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Valerie Vili, Commonwealth Games gold medallist opened the Special Olympics Schools Athletics Day on 11 April with strong words of encouragement and stories of inspiration. Some 280 athletes from 17 Auckland Secondary Special Schools competed in the regional ribbon day at Ericsson Stadium motivated by Valerie's words.

The 17 schools (listed below) are located around west and north Auckland. The ribbon day enables students from New Zealand's Special Schools to compete in various athletic track and field events, such as running, long jump, javelin, shot put, and softball throw.

As major sponsor of Special Olympics New Zealand, SKYCITY Auckland staff volunteered their time to assist as track and field officials. SKYCITY Auckland has supported Special Olympics since 1996, providing over $2 million in funding to this hard-working organisation.

Dave Beattie, coordinator for the Upper North Island Schools Programme says "The athletics event at Ericsson Stadium was such a success in so many ways, from the inspiration from Valerie, the tremendous efforts put in by the athletes and the smiles on their faces to the fantastic team effort put in by the 70 volunteer officials from SKYCITY and Pinehurst School. The support that SKYCITY give this event is very special and greatly appreciated by the athletes and myself." Special Olympics events such as these offer athletes with intellectual disabilities ongoing sports training and opportunities, including the chance of a lifetime, to work their way up to the National Games and ultimately, to possibly represent New Zealand internationally at the world games (next world games will be held in Shanghai in 2007).

Athletes compete at local and regional events each year. In New Zealand, there are over 100 sports events held in the 43 regions of the country.

For further information on Special Olympics New Zealand or to find out about volunteering visit: www.specialolympics.org.nz .

Schools who participated in the ribbon day:

Otahuhu College - Kotuku Unit Selwyn College Henderson High School Takapuna Grammar School Mahurangi College Long Bay College Sunnydene Special School Sir Keith Park Special School Arohanui Special School Wairau Valley Special School Northcote College Orewa College Oaklynn Special School Mt Richmond Special School Kaipara College Mt Roskill Grammar School Massey High School

Background - Special Olympics

The Special Olympics organisation is an international charitable trust which enables intellectually disabled people to actively participate in a range of sports. It was founded in the United States in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of Jack and Bobby Kennedy.

The concept was born in the early 1960s when Mrs. Shriver started a day camp for people with intellectual disability, who proved that they were far more capable in sports and physical activities than many experts thought.

Special Olympics is an international programme of year-round sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with mental disability, encouraging participation at all ability levels. Special Olympics New Zealand began in 1983 - founded by Grant Quinn - at a Lower Hutt swimming club. Quinn coached four young men with Down Syndrome at the Hutt Valley swimming club and took this group to the 1983 World Summer Games. Currently in NZ, over 4,000 athletes participate in the non-government funded programme on a regular basis. The Special Olympics Oath is ... Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.

ENDS

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