Hastings Torch Run leg spurs dream
‘I’m coming home with gold,’ says Special Olympics athlete after joining event in lead-up to Games
Special Olympics athletes and Hawke’s Bay police came together to carry the Flame of Hope through the Regional Sports Park in Hastings at the weekend.
The event was part of the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR), which will see torches relayed from each end of New Zealand.
The Hastings leg of the LETR is one of 31 torch-run events taking place throughout New Zealand in the leadup to the Special Olympics National Summer Games.
Special Olympics ten-pin bowler Felicity Lowes was the first athlete to hold the torch over the weekend.
She said, “It was such a good opportunity to get to hold the torch.”
Lowes said the weekend was great; she got to meet with her fellow athletes and see her mates.
She said she wasn’t nervous to be the first to carry the Flame of Hope.
“The police were helpful and told me how it worked and how to hold it,” she said.
The Special Olympics is designed for those with intellectual disabilities, much as the Para-Olympics is designed for athletes with physical disabilities.
Lowes has Down syndrome, an intellectual disability with physical impacts, and because of her disability she has to work harder on her training. In day-to-day life, she needs support with her cooking and getting around places she wants to go.
The ten-pin bowler trains every weekend at Superstrike in Hastings while also training in the gym throughout the week.
Since she was about 13 Lowes has been enrolled with the Special Olympics Club, first in swimming, then a few years later, transferring to ten-pin bowling.
At the last National Special Olympics in Wellington, Lowes took home gold, and the now 32-year-old is planning on doing it again.
“I’m coming home with gold,” Lowes said.
More than 1300 athletes from 42 Special Olympics Clubs and three schools will participate in this year’s Games, which will take place from December 8 to 13.
Between now and the start of the games, the Flame of Hope torch will make its way through the regions, supported by New Zealand Police, before arriving in Hamilton, the venue for the Games.
Special Olympics chief executive Carolyn Young said: “The support of the New Zealand Police and other service personnel is hugely valued. The Special Olympics team is excited to take to the streets with the NZ Police as the torch moves throughout the country.
“The LETR is one of the highlights of major Special Olympics events, and this year we are excited that the torches will travel to regions and clubs taking part in the National Summer Special Olympics,” Young said.
Director of LETR NZ, Inspector Mark Harrison of Palmerston North, said the police were delighted to be able to support the build-up to the Games.
“Law enforcement staff are proud to run alongside the athletes through our communities as the Flame of Hope makes its way to the games in Hamilton,” he said.
“The flame represents so much of what policing is about; it stands for hope, courage, opportunity, inspiration and equality.”
Held every four years, the Special Olympics New Zealand National Summer Games is the largest event for athletes with intellectual disabilities in New Zealand.
The games are run by Special Olympics New Zealand, which provides a year-round programme of sports training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
Similar in style to the Olympic torch relay, the LETR is a series of runs and fundraising events that raise awareness and money for the Special Olympics movement.
More than 90,000 police professionals and supporters across 46 countries participate in Law Enforcement Torch Runs.
In addition to raising awareness of the Special Olympics in New Zealand, the LETR helped to promote and support the Special Olympics Athlete Leadership Programme (ALPs).
This programme gives athletes the tools and experiences to become leaders and speak for themselves.