Spe­cial Olympians shine

The Tribune (NZ) - - FRONT PAGE - RICHARD MAYS

This week is Spe­cial Olympics Aware­ness Week, and two Palmer­ston North Spe­cial Olympians have been se­lected as the na­tional faces of the campaign.

Stephanie Davies and Robin Chok were cho­sen to rep­re­sent the wide gen­der, eth­nic and sport­ing mix that Spe­cial Olympics New Zealand em­braces, ac­cord­ing to Ju­lia San­son, who is the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s re­gional sports co­or­di­na­tor for the lower North Is­land based at Sport Manawatu.

The pair grace the week’s pub­lic­ity and ad­ver­tis­ing ma­te­rial. Spe­cial Olympics has given both not just the chance to per­form at a range of com­pet­i­tive lev­els, but to en­joy a wide so­cial life.

Stephanie’s mum Bar­bara says the so­cial as­pect in par­tic­u­lar, has been huge.

Com­pet­ing in ath­let­ics, basketball and swim­ming, Stephanie won a bronze medal in the 200 me­tres sprint at last year’s Spe­cial Olympics World Games in Los An­ge­les. More than 6000 ath­letes from 177 coun­tries took part.

Bar­bara says the com­pe­ti­tions were held on cam­pus at the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, but it was a real thrill to have the open­ing and clos­ing cer­e­monies in the Los An­ge­les Me­mo­rial Coli­seum, site of the 1932 and 1984 Olympics.

One of Spe­cial Olympics Global Mes­sen­gers, hav­ing grad­u­ated from its Ath­lete Lead­er­ship Pro­gramme in 2013, Stephanie has com­peted at two Na­tional Sum­mer Games, and at one Trans Tas­man Games.

Robin is a ten­pin bowler with Spe­cial Olympics Manawatu. His mum Nancy says the sport has en­abled Robin to grow in self­con­fi­dence, and keep him en­gaged in the com­mu­nity. Ap­par­ently Robin will hap­pily miss a meal but not his ten­pin prac­tice.

Spe­cial Olympics New Zealand pro­vides lo­cally based sports train­ing and com­pe­ti­tion pro­grammes across the coun­try for more than 7000 chil­dren and adults with in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties.

It’s not only the ath­letes’ lives that are changed. Last month Spe­cial Olympics held a basketball and bocce tour­na­ment for school stu­dents who have in­tel­lec- tual dis­abil­i­ties. The event at­tracted more than 150 ath­letes from six Manawatu and Whanganui schools.

Vol­un­teer ref­er­ees, time­keep­ers and scor­ers came from a group of Year 13 stu­dents at Awat­apu Col­lege who had been work­ing with a spe­cial needs unit.

PHOTO RICHARD MAYS/FAIR­FAX NZ

Palmer­ston North’s Robin Chok and Stephanie Davies are the na­tional faces of this week’s Spe­cial Olympics Aware­ness Week.

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