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Sports history to be made in Wellington tomorrow

Friday 21 March 2014 For immediate release

Media release

Sports history to be made in Wellington tomorrow

Special Olympics New Zealand is holding the country’s first ever Unified Sports competition this weekend at Wellington’s Berhampore Community Sports Venue.

Special Olympics New Zealand runs year-long sports training and competition for more than 6000 people with intellectual disabilities around the country.

The Special Olympics Wellington Club is holding a one-day bocce tournament on Saturday 22 March in which athletes with an intellectual disability will partner with a teammate without a disability. Competitors are travelling from around the Lower North Island to participate. Twelve teams in total are competing in three divisions, including four Unified teams.

The tournament kicks off Special Olympics New Zealand’s pilot project providing Unified Sports competition in bocce and golf across its 44 Clubs nationwide.

More than half a million people are involved in Unified Sports internationally. Special Olympics International recently signed a two-year multi-million dollar deal with ESPN and the Walt Disney Company in which the companies will provide financial and in-kind support to build public awareness and attract an additional 500,000 athletes, teammates and coaches to Unified Sport.

“Unified Sports is a very exciting venture for Special Olympics New Zealand and mainstream sport in New Zealand and offers immense benefits for all athletes. Social inclusion is the underpinning principle of Special Olympics. Unified Sports offers a way for people who normally wouldn’t be involved with anyone with an intellectual disability to play alongside them. In essence it breaks down social barriers as the athletes and teammates play on an equal playing field,” says Mike Ryan, Special Olympics New Zealand’s National Sport and Coaching Director.

“Nationwide we have a few athletes who train and compete with mainstream clubs as well as Special Olympics New Zealand clubs (primarily in basketball, athletics and aquatics). The Unified Sports programme will open up opportunities for more athletes to train and compete alongside people who don’t have an intellectual disability.”

Special Olympics New Zealand will send a team of bocce athletes within its delegation to Los Angeles, California, USA, in July 2015 to compete in the Special Olympics World Summer Games alongside other athletes and Unified Sports participants.

Event details:

Special Olympics New Zealand Unified Sports Bocce Event
Saturday 22 March, 10am
Berhampore Community Sports Venue, Stanley Street, Berhampore, Wellington

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