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NZ athletes claim first medals at Special Olympics World Games

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The New Zealand team at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi have claimed their first medals, in the second day of the week-long competition.

In the pool, 24 year-old Unity Collins from Te Awamutu won a silver medal for the 50 metre freestyle, while fellow Te Awamutu Club member Portia Johnson won a bronze medal in the same event. The good friends were very excited for each other to win a medal and achieve a personal best time.

Head Swimming Coach Carla L’Hullier said, "All of the athletes that swum today have definitely improved, the relay yesterday was a personal best for the team and it really gave everyone confidence that they could be successful today.

"We had a big talk at the beginning and agreed that we wanted everyone to do their best at the games and if they did that and they got a medal it was good luck. So far we have had four personal bests and the team is going as hard as they can and is delighted with the outcome."

Two bronze medals were also claimed on the athletics field in the mini javelin event by Holly Jones (Thames Valley) and Kyle Harpur (North Canterbury).

In difficult conditions the athletes battled the wind and their nerves to come through with a medal. The coaches were very proud of what the athletes achieved, and both recorded personal best distances.

Head Athletics Coach Shona McGahan said, "The team is a happy unit that is supporting each other well. They have a good vibe happening, which is resulting in strong performances in the competition.

"The bonus for Kyle was that Ryan Smith (Manawatu), who is in Abu Dhabi, as part of the Final Leg Law Enforcement Torch Run, presented the medals for Kyles ceremony, so it had a real Kiwi flavour to it.

The New Zealand delegation to the World Summer Games includes 38 athletes with intellectual disabilities, five ‘Unified Partners’ (athletes without an intellectual disability), and 21 coaches, managers and support staff. From 14-21 March the team is competing in swimming, athletics, bocce, equestrian, basketball, bowling, powerlifting and football at what is the biggest sports and humanitarian event staged anywhere in the world in 2019.

Tomorrow UAE time the NZ athletes will continue competing in athletics and equestrian.

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