Thirteen athletes with intellectual disabilities from around the country are preparing to take on the world’s best as they depart for the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Graz, Austria, this week.
The group of athletes with intellectual disabilities is the largest ever New Zealand delegation to take part in a World Winter Games. They will compete alongside 3,000 athletes from 110 nations at the Games in Graz, Austria from 14-25 March 2017.
The New Zealand athletes are supported by a team of seven volunteer management and coaching staff, and will take part in both Alpine skiing and snowboarding.
The New Zealand delegation will depart from Auckland on Wednesday 8 March. Former Special Olympics athlete Robert Martin, who recently became the first person with a learning disability elected to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, will travel to Auckland to give a motivational address to the athletes before they depart.
Special Olympics New Zealand Chief Executive Kathy Gibson, said that for many of the competing athletes, the chance to travel and take part in an international event is a once in a lifetime opportunity.