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People Making Changes Issue 31 -
New Zealand Special Olympics
Help Develop Skills

Dorothy - 6/2/98

Special Olympics Logo The New Zealand Special Olympics Foundation and the 1997 Fourth New Zealand Special Olympic National Games

"Everyone is a winner just by participating in these games."
Terry Carboon, Chairman of the Special Olympics Foundation, in his message of welcome to the South Island games in 1996.

Saying this he emphasised the motivating philosophy of the games organisers. The emphasis on participating, not just on winning, is expressed in the motto of the Special Olympics:
"Let me win, but if I cannot win let me be brave in the attempt."

What is special about the Special Olympics?
The first special aspect is that the competitors are all people who are in some way intellectually disabled.

The second aspect is that all competitors are regarded as winners because they have trained hard and conscientiously to reach the standard required for entry.

International authorisation
They are organised by the New Zealand Special Olympics Foundation which is authorised and accredited by Special Olympics International for the benefit of people with an intellectual disability. NZSOF was founded in 1985.

The mission of Special Olympics is "to provide year-round sports, training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic type sports, for persons eight years of age and older with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills, and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics' athletes and the community".

The goal of the New Zealand Special Olympics is "to help bring all persons with intellectual disabilities into the larger society under conditions whereby they are accepted, respected, and given the chance to become useful and productive citizens".

The 1997 Fourth New Zealand Special Olympic National Games
These games, held at four-yearly intervals, took place in Christchurch from November 28-30, 1997. The major sponsor was Sky City Ltd.

A total of 1486 people involved
1,075 athletes
from 41 different areas and regions in New Zealand competed in the games in ten sports - soccer, athletics, gymnastics, bocce, swimming, power lifting, equestrian, indoor bowls, basketball and ten pin bowling.

Courage, commitment and dedication
Terry Carboon in his welcome to the 1997 National Games emphasised the fact that to compete these athletes need courage, commitment and dedication. Competitors must be picked by their region and to be considered for selection they must have turned up regularly for their training, attended a ribbon day held locally, and a regional day.

Voluntary helpers
To compete these competitors also need organisers and minders and Terry thanked the 411 people who were responsible for the management to ensure the success of the games.

Organisation a huge task undertaken by volunteers
Ivan Bolton was appointed by the NZSO Foundation as Games Director and organised a team to work with him. Delegation of responsibilities was the only way that a team of volunteers could undertake such a mammoth project. The management was divided into nine areas with directors taking charge of administration, communications, facilities, public relations, special events, sports, transport, venues and volunteers. Coordinators were appointed for the North and South Island and for Canterbury, the host area.

Sports directors
Directors were appointed for each of the ten sports. Many of these people had gained experience by being involved in running the South Island Special Olympics in 1996. Some were coaches of the sports they were directing.

Rod Syme, Director of Athletics, had been with the Atlanta Olympic team. Trisha Ventom and Graeme Bain, directors of basketball, are coaches, as are Jenny Nicol, director of equestrian events, and John Graham, director of Indoor Bowls.

Increased interest in coaching
One of the aims of the NZSOF is to improve coaching standards and increase the number of coaches. Some Canterbury sports people who were directors have become so interested in the Special Olympics that they have offered to become coaches in the future.

Increased community awareness
Two further aims of NZSOF are to increase public awareness of the Special Olympics Programmes and to encourage and maintain volunteer involvement in Special Olympics.

The Fourth National Games certainly achieved these aims as there was a wide range of sponsors, donations in kind came from many firms and organisations, and volunteers came from many groups within the community - eight schools, service clubs, businesses and the Antarctic Development Squadron - VXE 6, US Navy.

Housing the competitors and helpers
Seven hundred people stayed in the hostels at the University of Canterbury, seven hundred at Lincoln. Meals were provided as well as beds.

Events were held at different venues around the city, but the majority of the competitors were at QE ll Park - Track and Field events, Bocce (the Italian form of petanque), Gymnastics, Powerlifting, Swimming, and Soccer.

Basketball was played at Cowles Stadium. Equestrian events were held at the Centre for Riding for the Disabled in Yaldhurst Rd. Ten Pin Bowling was at the Garden City Bowl, and the Indoor Bowls at the Christchurch Indoor Bowls Centre and the Wharenui Recreation Centre.

You can read more about Riding for the Disabled in
People Making Changes 30.

The World Games
From the National Games the NZSOF will choose a team to go to the World Games which are held four yearly in America. The next World Games will be held in North Carolina, USA, June 26 - July 4, 1999.

Unlike the competitors in the Olympic Games the competitors in the World Games are allowed to compete in the World Games only once. These games are not elitist, but offer an opportunity for new competitors on each occasion. Participation rather than elitism is the aim.

Sporting careers of two Special Olympians demonstrate growth in confidence
Paul Hotton

Paul's sporting successes are evidence of the way competitors' skills and confidence increase through participation in the competitions run by Special Olympics. He is one of the original Special Olympians, having competed in the first National Games and continued ever since.

Paul was attending the Special Needs Unit at Aranui High School in Christchurch. While there he trained in athletics. He went to Australia for the games held to celebrate the Bicentenary and won medals.

He also saw power lifting which was then a demonstration sport, and decided on his return that he wanted to change to this sport himself. He trained first at the gym at the Y.M.C.A. and when that closed he transferred to Bodies Unlimited Fitness Centre at New Brighton.

Paul Hotton shaking hands with Precious Mackenzie
Paul Hotton shaking hands with Precious Mackenzie
In 1993 he took part in the Third New Zealand Special Olympics National Games and was encouraged by Precious McKenzie, the Olympic Gold Medallist in this sport. A photo of Paul shaking hands with him hangs in the gym where Paul trains.

In 1995 he competed in the World Special Olympic Games in the U.S.A. in New Haven, Connecticut.

He now works under a professional coach. At the Special Olympic Games in Christchurch he won every event in his weight, and in the dead lift he lifted 190 kgs (419 lbs), which is over three times his own body weight of 63 kgs (139 lbs).

That looks heavy! - 190 kgs (419 lbs)
Paul lifting 190 kgs (419 lbs)
Although he works during the week at Kilmarnock Enterprises Paul is in full training, and like a number of the other competitors who were successful in the Special Olympics he is now entering into mainstream competition.

Teresa Edgecumbe
Teresa like Paul began her interest in sport, especially swimming, when at Aranui High School. She too is an original competitor having competed in the first National Games and continued with the competitions. She is now the mother of a ten year old daughter, Tracey, and works at Kilmarnock Enterprises, but still finds time for regular training. She also competes in Indoor Bowls and in Floor Hockey. Tracey is very proud of her mother's achievements.

Ginny Edgecumbe, Teresa's mother, and Lester Hotton, Paul's father, took their children to the first National Games in Wellington and stayed on a marae, a great experience for them all, and one which built the confidence of the young people.

Teresa and Paul represented New Zealand at the Australian National Special Olympics - a matter of pride for the group at Kilmarnock Enterprises that two people from their staff were chosen to represent the country.

The Special Olympic swimmers have trained at QE ll pool, and now the more serious swimmers also have a special coach at Aqua-gym. It is always a great boost for the Special Olympians when the other swimmers who have left their lane, thinking that they will be very slow, return to swim with them, challenge them to a race and chat to them. Acceptance by the wider community is important for them.

Teresa and Ginny with Teresa's medals
Teresa and Ginny with Teresa's medals, photographed at a Special Olympics Prize Giving.
Ginny and her husband Kay are deeply involved with the work of these swimmers. Ginny works with fund raising for their travel expenses. Kay makes equipment and trophies for them. He made a special adaptation to a bicycle for a young man who had never had his own transport, and handmade wooden dolphins, one for Raymond Merritt, the most improved swimmer and one for Nicola Roper, a competitor who had trained hard for the recent National Special Olympics but at the last minute was prevented from competing by a health problem.

Team Spirit
One young man had a mental block about swimming more than fifty metres without a rest. Ginny offered him a chocolate bar if he could swim 100 metres. He changed the reward to a chocolate bar for everyone, and then swam the required distance. Everyone rejoiced with him - and received a chocolate bar. That is typical of the spirit within the group who are very supportive of one another.

Parafed Games
Two years ago the Canterbury branch of Special Olympics had the opportunity to put people into the Parafed Games. The next Parafed Games are in February, 1998, and for the first time the NZSOF as a national body will select a team to take part in these - an exciting challenge for the elite athletes as in the Parafed games they have the opportunity to compete more than once. Forty eight Special Olympic competitors have been chosen and Teresa is among them.

What are the long term benefits?
The Special Olympics offer competitors the chance to:

  • develop their social skills
  • make new friendships
  • experience the discipline of competitive sport
  • improve their fitness
  • gain confidence
  • have fun.

Philosophy that everyone is a winner
I return to the opening quotation, "Everyone is a winner just by participating in these games". Every competitor is given an award - a gold, silver or bronze medal or a ribbon. To be selected is an achievement, and the person who gains the eighth place in a heat of eight competitors is still a winner.

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