Several players with Down syndrome recently featured in New Zealand’s first fully disabled rugby team in Christchurch.

The team is called Polar Bears and is part of High Schools Old Boys’ and an international organisation called Tri Trust Rugby.

The team has 20 players with intellectual and/or physical disabilities and are aged between 12 and 40.

After months of training, the players were buzzing to take the field, along with ‘enablers’ who helped facilitate the game to get everyone involved.

The team’s ultimate goal is to have other teams to play against domestically, and one day internationally.

To celebrate its 51st anniversary last July, Special Olympics International organised a host of events and activities focused on Unified Sports.

In Unified Sports, Special Olympians compete alongside and against people with and without intellectual disabilities.

Special Olympics New Zealand celebrated the Special Olympics Global Day of Inclusion with an exhibition football match in Christchurch on July 21,

The New Zealand World Summer Games Unified football team took on an invitational team made up of local athletes and Christchurch City councillors on the famous cricket pitch at Hagley Oval.

The match featured on TVNZ’s Seven Sharp programme and Frank Walmsley explained that as a unified partner in the team, he is part of the team, and not a coach.

“We’re there to play with the team, be part of the team. We make sure that everybody’s getting passed to, keeping their heads up when they go a goal behind. Just there to support the others,” said Walmsley.

Special Olympics NZ Chief Executive Carolyn Young said that unified sport creates great opportunities for people to connect. “And we really saw that at the Christchurch match.”

“The match provided an opportunity to showcase the benefits of making connections with a broader range of people in our community and demonstrates that we are better together.”

Both teams had great fun and put in an amazing performance. At the end of the day the World Summer Games team came out on top with a 1-0 win.

If you want to see the action on Seven Sharp, please follow this link.

By Joanne Holden

After four years as “camp mother” keeping the Roncalli College girls’ rugby team hydrated, a Timaru 16-year-old with Down syndrome has made her debut on the field.

Meghan Phillips burst into tears when her mother told her she would be donning yellow and blue stripes for the final five minutes of an hour-long match against visiting school Prebbleton on Friday.

“I’m a wee bit nervous,” Meghan said, ahead of the 3pm game.

While the Roncalli College Year 12 student was “rugby-mad”, she had only ever played the sport with her brother – so she enjoyed her first time practising and warming up with a team.

“I like playing rugby with all the girls.”

The Roncalli College and Prebbleton school girls 1st XV teams after their match. Photos: Bejon Haswell/Timaru Herald.

Although her team lost, Meghan scored the game’s final try – ploughing through half a field of opponents to ground the ball.

Meghan also got a shock when she learned her father and brother had travelled from Christchurch to watch her big moment, and sprinted over to them for a reunion after the game.

Roncalli girls coach Brad Sandri said Meghan had been getting water to the players and tees to the kickers since starting at the school four years ago, and was “a bit of a general camp mother”.

“She keeps everyone sorted. They’re never thirsty,” Sandri said.

Copyright: Stuff

Meghan Phillips, 16 has been a passionate supporter of the Roncalli College girls 1st XV for 3 years.

Jack Lewer and Rachel Oemcke were last month rewarded for their outstanding performances at the World Winter Games at the Manawatu Sport Awards.

Winter Games
Jack was named Disabled Sportsman of the Year and Rachel was named as the Disabled Sportswoman of the year in the intellectually disabled section.
Both of them competed at the World Winter Games in Austria in 2017 where Rachel claimed gold in the skiing Super G on the opening day.

The New Zealand team brought home 18 medals in total.

Winter Games

Here are the results of the New Zealand athletes:

Day one:
Rebecca Heath, Skiing Int. Super G (Div. 6) 1:59.01 Bronze; Rachel Oemcke Skiing Int. Super G (Div. 7) 2:28.32 Gold; Chris Westcott Skiing Int. Super G (Div. M4) 1:04.46 4th; Ben Blanche Skiing Int. Super G (Div. M5) 1:18.40 6th; Nathan Symister Skiing Int. Super G (Div. M11) 1:47.05 4th; Cameron Jarvis Skiing Int. Super G (Div. M12) 2:03.09 Gold; Thomas Loftus Skiing Adv. Super G (Div. M2) 1:11.43 6th.

Day two:
Jarrod Gilbert Snowboarding Advanced Super G (Div. M2) 1:15.14 Gold; Kaa Dekker Snowboarding Advanced Super G (Div. M3) 1:11.01 Bronze; Martin Joyce Snowboarding Advanced Super G (Div. M1) 2:39.89 5th.

Day Three:
Rebecca Heath Skiing Int. Giant Slalom (Div. F11) 3:55.46 Silver; Rachel Oemcke Skiing Int. Giant Slalom (Div. F12) 7:37.92 Participation; Chris Westcott Skiing Int. Giant Slalom (Div. M7) 2:16.33 Gold; Ben Blanche Skiing Int. Giant Slalom (Div. M7) 2:35.14 7th; Nathan Symister Skiing Int. Giant Slalom (Div. M13) 3:05.84 Silver; Michael Holdsworth Skiing Int. Giant Slalom (Div. M13) 3:25.99 Bronze; Cameron Jarvis Skiing Int. Giant Slalom (Div. M16) 4:58.81 Bronze; Ella Sharples Skiing Adv. Giant Slalom (Div. F5) 1:45.98 Bronze; Thomas Loftus Skiing Adv. Giant Slalom (Div. M3) 1:47.23 Silver; Jason Donovan Skiing Adv. Giant Slalom (Div. M9) 1:40.80 Silver; Kaa Dekker Snowboarding Adv. Giant Slalom (Div. M2) 2:15.77 Silver; Jarrod Gilbert Snowboarding Adv. Giant Slalom (Div. M3) 2:40.59 Bronze; Martin Joyce Snowboarding Adv. Giant Slalom (Div. M5) 4:59.29 Gold;

Day Five:
Ella Sharples Skiing Adv. Slalom (Div. F4) 1:51.65 Gold; Michael Holdsworth Skiing Int. Slalom (Div. M9) 1:55.71 Bronze; Jason Donovan Skiing Adv. Slalom (Div. M6) 1:46.81 5th.


Winter Games

Winter Games

Winter Games

We were incredibly proud to bring our 9th National Summer Games to our capital city for the very first time.  

National Summer Games

This event saw 1771 registered athletes and coaches from 43 clubs and 3 schools, 750 family and supporters and 500volunteers come together over 6 days to take part in New Zealand’s largest event for people with special capabilities. This event was 32 per cent larger than the 8th National Summer Games held in Dunedin four years ago. 

National Summer Games

We placed particular emphasis on making sure that there were no quotas in any of the 11 sports offered across our 10 venues. This meant that every athlete who qualified to attend the National Summer Games in their chosen sport was able to do so. This epitomises what Special Olympics is all about. Our youngest athlete, competing in swimming, was aged 9 and our oldest two athletes, competing in Ten Pin Bowling and lndoor Bowls, were 72! 

National Summer Games

It is part of our ethos to ensure that our athletes can compete in the best possible sports environments. The size and scale of this National Summer Games meant that we needed to use a range of high quality venues in Wellington, the Hutt Valley and Porirua. Additionally, our Equestrian competition was held at Manfeild Park in Feilding. 

National Summer Games

We are incredibly gratefuI to our amazing team of 50+volunteer clinicians who enabled the successfuI running of our healthy athletes programme for people with intellectual disabilities, which ran alongside our sports events. Free health screenings in Opening Eyes, Healthy Hearing, Fit Feet and SpeciaI Smiles, were offered to over 2,600 athletes and many were given Free prescription glasses and new hearing aids, all generously sponsored through the wonderfuI efforts of our dedicated clinicaI team.

National Summer Games

Additionally, we were able to pilot a referral system for those athletes who presented with acute health requirements so that they were able to receive the specialist care they neededto improve their health and well-being. SpeciaI Olympics offers much more than just sport! 

National Summer Games

I cannot thank our corporate and community volunteers enough for the outstanding effort they gave to support our event. Of speciaI mention were the 80+ volunteers and family supporters from Datacom’s Wellington offices who very ably led all the information technology functions for our sports events using our Games Management System. This included the development of the competition schedules and the timely recording and circulation of all sports results. Coupled with this, Datacom generously offered new ideas and innovation for continuous improvement in the Future. 

National Summer Games

National Summer Games

FMC lnsurance provided 63 staff volunteers to support the successfuI running of our Equestrian events in Feilding. Many of the FMC team had agricultural backgrounds and so they could slot into our environment with very little training. Like Datacom, the professionalism the FMC volunteers brought to our event was outstanding. Nga Tawa School not only wittingly provided horses from their Equestrian Academy for our competitions at Manfeild Park but also valuable votunteer support.  

National Summer Games

National Summer Games

Staff from Sport New Zealand, the Todd Corporation, Kiwibank and many Lions and Rotary volunteers also provided tremendous community support across all our sports. We wish to extend a huge thank you to all our volunteers who gave so willingly of their time tocensure the smooth running of our event. 

National Summer Games

We set 5 key goals at the start of this event and I am very pleased that we achieved them all. Namely: 

  • To deliver an outstanding event in full, on time and on budget; 
  • To celebrate the outstanding achievements and sporting successes of our participating athtetes; 
  • To further progress our desire to build positive awareness and understanding across New Zealand of the meaning and purpose of Special Olympics. 
  • Through our event change public attitudes and build new community support for people with intellectual disabilities 
  • To leave a very positive Special Olympics legacy within the greater Wellington region and in Feilding for many years to come.

National Summer Games

This was my 3rd National Summer Games and each time I encourage our team to aim for the stars. There is no better environment in my view that demonstrates what true sportsmanship is about. Showcasing and celebrating sporting success is a core aim but what will be more important will be the Fun, Friendship and camaraderie developed through sport, not only during Games Week but over a lifetime. 

National Summer Games

I wish to extend very special thanks to our extremely dedicated coaches, sports officials and volunteers who worked tirelessly with our athletes at community level to prepare them all so well for this event. Each person in the collective team played an important part behind the scenes in our Clubs and schools, from fundraising through to preparation of uniforms, travel and pastoral care. To the Families and care givers, a special thank you for your support. Our very grateful thanks to our incredible sponsors, suppliers and supporters who have provided in kind and investment support. We cannot run events of this size and scale without your ongoing commitment.  

National Summer Games

National Summer Games

And finally to my staff and our contracted team who went beyond the call of duty to deliver our best National Summer Games on record. I am buoyed by the exceptional warmth and hospitality that the host communities have shown to us every step of the way.  When we chose Wellington for our 9th National Summer Games, I knew this region would do us proud and there is absolutely no doubt that it delivered in spades to make this such a memorable experience for everyone involved. Thank you! 

Kathy Gibson 







National Summer Games

By Gabrielle Salmon

My name is Gabrielle Salmon and this year I competed in the Down Syndrome World Championships.

Rhythic gymnastics is a form of gymnastics emphasizing dance like rhythmic routines.

During my routine I use a ball, a hoop, a ribbon and two clubs.

I am practising Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays in Sacred Heart School at Orakei, and Tuesdays during lunch times at Baradene School. So I am practising 4 times a week.

At practice, I run for 5 laps and do stretches to music for warm up. I work on the difficult parts of my routines eg: balances. But every lesson I practise with my hoop, ribbon, ball and clubs.

On the Thursday before the holidays, I went to my school Rhythmic Gymnastic competition at Bruce Pulman Park.

Two months ago, I won this medal in Counties Manukau Gymnastics competition.

I left for Germany on the 30th of June and came back on the 13th of July. We took a plane to Germany. First we stopped at Bali Airport. Then we took another plane to Dubai and a last plane to Frankfurt. We finished our trip by taking a train to Boppard. That was a long trip!

Hannah, my coach, and Mum came with me.

We did lots of fun things before the competition, like visiting Cologne Cathedral and the Markberg Castle.

I took part in my Rhythmic Gymnastics Competition in Bochum.

I won four gold medals for my events and another gold medal for overall winner.

My leotard was black, white and skin colour.

On our way home we visited Amsterdam where we went to the Anne Frank House, the Royal Palace and the canals.

I was proud representing New Zealand and made lots of new friends from other countries.