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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
Paul Hotton shaking hands with Precious Mackenzie
In 1995 he competed in the World Special Olympic Games in the U.S.A. in New
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).
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.
Paul lifting 190 kgs (419 lbs)
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
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.
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
Teresa and Ginny with Teresa's medals, photographed at a
Special Olympics Prize Giving.
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.
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.