Special Olympics’ Victorious Athletes

Special Olympics New Zealand’s World Winter Games team has returned home triumphant with 18 medals, and nine placement ribbons after a week of competition in PyeongChang, South Korea.

The team of 10 athletes, who all have an intellectual disability, competed in a series of Alpine skiing and Snowboarding courses against 2,300 other athletes from around the world.

Despite fierce competition, difficult snow conditions, a gastro-flu that swept through the New Zealand camp, and injury, the New Zealand athletes achieved sensational results.

Special Olympics New Zealand’s snowboarding team comprising Morgan James (Special Olympics Central Otago) and Brittney McKenzie (Special Olympics South Canterbury) dominated their field at Alpensia Resort. Morgan returned home with three gold medals from three races (Super G, Giant Slalom, and Slalom), while Brittney won two silver medals and a bronze medal in the same races.

The Alpine skiing team faced blizzard conditions and ice at Yongpyong Resort but managed to come away with a series of medals and ribbons.

Hugh Brown (Special Olympics Otago) and Troy Rangi (Special Olympics North Harbour) were upgraded to the Advanced level during the initial divisioning process, posing an unexpected challenge for the skiers.

Hugh went on to win a bronze medal in the Alpine Advanced Slalom, and fourth place ribbons for the Alpine Advanced Giant Slalom and Alpine Advanced Super G.

Troy won two silver medals in the Alpine Advanced Super G and Alpine Advanced Giant Slalom, and a sixth place ribbon for the Alpine Advanced Slalom.

Among the Intermediate Alpine skiers, Katrina Hewett (Special Olympics North Otago) won a silver medal in the Alpine Giant Slalom, and a bronze medal in the Alpine Intermediate Super G. She fell on her second run in the Slalom but recovered to complete the race.

Amy Mackres (Special Olympics North Harbour) won a silver medal in the Alpine Slalom, a bronze medal in the Alpine Giant Slalom, and a sixth place ribbon in the Alpine Super G.

David Ee (Special Olympics Tamaki) held off stiff competition from other athletes in his division (and ill effects of the gastro-bug) to win a bronze medal in the Alpine Slalom, a sixth place ribbon in the Alpine Super G, and a seventh place ribbon in the Alpine Giant Slalom.

Conrad Ryan (Special Olympics Manawatu) faced what was argued to be some of the toughest competition in the field and received ribbons for the Alpine Slalom (eighth place), Alpine Super G (sixth place), and the Alpine Giant Slalom (seventh place).

Nick Fyfe (Special Olympics Hutt Valley) ended up in hospital to get a piece of glass removed from his foot on day two of the competition but was able to ski with stitches in place. Overall he won three bronze medals for the Alpine Slalom, Alpine Super G, and Alpine Giant Slalom.

 Nick Latz (Special Olympics North Canterbury) suffered ongoing issues with the gastro-bug during the Games but still managed to ski most days. He won a bronze medal in the Alpine Giant Slalom, and a fifth place ribbon in the Alpine Super G.

“Our athletes really did us proud against the rest of the world at the Special Olympics World Winter Games. We were delighted with all their results, the ribbons, and medals. Our athletes, coaches, and support staff all gave it their best, and then some, and they all delivered far more than we had hoped for,” says Brian Benn, Head of the Special Olympics New Zealand Delegation.

“The Games itself was well executed and the Opening and Closing Ceremonies were spectacular. Everyone had a really good time both on the ski fields and off. Everyone has a different highlight including talking to South Korean media, meeting Tim Shriver [the Chairman & CEO of Special Olympics], meeting other athletes from around the world, and of course, representing New Zealand for the first time.”

The 10th Special Olympics World Winter Games were the sixth Winter Games Special Olympics New Zealand had attended. More than 14,900 people attended the Games including 2,300 athletes, 1,300 families, 1000 media, 1,500 VIP, and 7,800 operating officials.

Special Olympics New Zealand was also represented in the Law Enforcement Torch Run by one of its Board Members, Constable Stew Hewett, and Special Olympics World Winter Games medalist and Global Messenger Thomas van der Lugt (one of just eight athletes chosen worldwide to take part). The run started on 23 January 2013 with 133 people running two separate routes from Seoul to PyeongChang, visiting 40 destinations along the way. Stew and Thomas also took part in the ‘Polar Plunge’ fundraiser. The events raised more than $US115,000 for Special Olympics.

If you would like to know more about Special Olympics NZ please visit www.specialolympics.org.nz

11 years ago