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Postponement of Games opens door for Kiwi Athletes

Postponement of Special Olympics World Winter Games opens door for Kiwi athletes

The postponement of the Special Olympics World Winter Games to 2023 has opened the door for New Zealand winter sports athletes to be able to compete against the world’s best.

The Special Olympics World Winter Games are the four-yearly pinnacle event for athletes with an intellectual disability, but organisers this week decided to postpone the next event in 2022 in Kazan, Russia, by a year because of the global pandemic.

Special Olympics New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Carolyn Young says that the postponement is disappointing for the organisers and athletes who were planning to travel, but it has created a new opportunity for Kiwi skiers and snowboarders who were not going to be in Kazan in 2022.

“Special Olympics New Zealand decided not to select a team for January 2022 due to the current uncertainty and the complications around MIQ slots on return,” says Young.

“Many of our athletes and also support staff indicated they were not able to be away from home for five weeks or more to compete at the games and complete their quarantine.”

Special Olympics New Zealand had already selected their Head of Delegation and Assistant Head of Delegation to start planning for 2023 and to start the selection process.

“Going to Kazan will a unique opportunity for our athletes to experience a different culture and meet fellow athletes from around the globe,” says Young.

New Zealand has been allocated a quota of 20 athletes and coaches to participate in Alpine Skiing and Snowboarding and Young hopes that Special Olympics New Zealand can fill that quota with suitable athletes.

“With the new postponement we are hopeful that we can once again join our fellow Special Olympics athletes from around the world to celebrate friendship, courage, inclusion and athletic ability,” says Young.

New Zealand has a strong history in the World Winter Games and the 13 athletes who attended the 2017 games in Graz, in Austria, returned with 18 medals between them. They all achieved personal best results and their haul was particularly impressive as all athletes were only able to enter in two events each.

The New Zealand group competed alongside more than 2,600 Special Olympics athletes from over 105 countries at the Games in Graz, which was the largest sporting event in the world to be held in 2017.

Before turning their eyes to Kazan, New Zealand’s finest athletes with intellectual disabilities will first converge in Hamilton in December for the Freemasons New Zealand National Summer Games, where 1,600 athletes and coaches will compete in 10 sports across eight venues.

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