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