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Our talented Athletes share their experiences of the Games

Name: Chris Joseph

Team: Hutt Valley 
Position: Athlete
Sport: Basketball

Chris Joseph is a key player for the Hutt Valley basketball team, with more than 10 years' experience in the sport. 

Chris really enjoys playing basketball because it is an environment where he can help his team out, and support others. Chris believes that basketball is a great sport to play because it keeps him fit and helps improve his coordination skills. He enjoys playing with his teammates because they always keep him "on his game". 

Chris also mentioned that he really appreciates all the coaches and other volunteers, because they give really good advice and support to the players. 

The Hutt Valley team has been training together for years, with both new and old players. The Hutt Valley athletes are currently the Special Olympics Trans Tasman Tournament champions, and have been the National champions for three consecutive years.

This year will be more challenging for the Hutt Valley team, with the addition of promising new players to the competition [in other regions]. Hutt Valley are looking forward to the rest of the competition.

Name: Bradley Caffell

Position: Athlete
Sport: Powerlifting
Team: Otago

Bradley Caffell has been competing in Powerlifting for two years. Bradley is now 16 years old, and is the youngest Powerlifter at the National Summer Games 2013 this year.

For more than a year, Bradley had a combined total of 215kg across the three lifts (Squat, Bench, and Deadlift). Suddenly, everything clicked for Bradley, and his technique started to dramatically improve. In December 2012, Bradley reached a combined total of 227.5kg. In March this year, his combined total was 232.5kg, and in June Bradley reached a combined total of 272.5kg.

Bradley's aim for the National Summer Games  2013 was to reach a combined total of 300kg. Bradley accomplished that goal, achieving five personal bests and winning three gold medals and one silver medal in division one in the Powerlifting competition. 

Bradley's goals for the future are to represent New Zealand at the Special Olympics World Summer Games, and to use his sport to travel internationally.

Powerlifting has had a positive influence on Bradley's life in many ways. He has made many life long friends, and it has given him strength, which has improved other sport he enjoys, including his skiing ability.

Name: Neville Pugh

Team: Hutt Valley
Sport: Football
Position: Athlete

Neville Pugh only began playing football this year but was so impressive on the field he was invited to represent Hutt Valley at the National Summer Games 2013. He admits he was a bit nervous about coming to the Games at first, but has found it an extremely interesting and positive experience overall.

Neville and his teammates train every Monday night, and some of them had some extra training on Sundays leading up to the National Summer Games 2013.

Neville said he can't pinpoint one highlight as "everything!" has been a really positive experience for him. The biggest challenge for him is marking his contenders in the other team, saying they can be a bit of a challenge.

Neville says that his inspiration for playing football is Gabriel O’ Connor, a friend with Down Syndrome whose mother takes them both to football practice every week. Gabriel’s expertise on the football field has served as inspiration for Neville to take up the sport and compete in the Special Olympics New Zealand National Summer Games 2013.

As well as his training with Special Olympics, Neville works at The Warehouse. 

Name: Angus Dobbie

Team: Southland
Sport: Athletics
Position: Athlete

This week has been 15-year-old Angus Dobbie’s first time participating at a Special Olympics New Zealand National Summer Games. The athletics star is competing in both shot-put and running.

For Angus, throwing the balls in shot-put is the best part about athletics, but he also says that he really enjoys running and the fitness that it provides him.

Angus has been running for five years, and trains frequently with his coach Alison. He plans to start swimming and playing basketball next year.

A big highlight for Angus has been making new friends and meeting new people, and a challenge he faces in competing is keeping up with all of the practice before hand.

Angus has two brothers, Finn and Ben, and has a keen interest in movies and books, particularly Harry Potter and Dr. Who. His favourite animal is the Guinea Pig.

Name: Nicholas Cockill

Position: Athlete
Team: Otago
Sport: Ten Pin Bowling

Nicholas Cockill has been Ten Pin Bowling for seven years, starting at the age of 17. This is his second time competing in the Special Olympics New Zealand National Summer Games, with his first time being the 2009 Games held in Palmerston North. 

Nicholas says that he loves bowling, especially bowling with his teammates. His favourite part of playing is scoring strikes, and if he wasn’t bowling, he’d like to be playing golf. 

Training is held for the bowling team every Friday for a couple of hours, and Nicholas has undertaken some extra training for his week at the Special Olympics New Zealand National Summer Games 2013. 

A highlight for him so far has been meeting many new people, and playing on a team with "awesome teammates". 

Nicholas is from Dunedin and grew up in the suburb of Mosgiel with his younger sister Sarah. 

Name: Michael Donovan

Position: Athlete
Team: Hawke's Bay
Sport: Ten Pin Bowling

Michael has been bowling for 10 years and very much enjoys competing in many tournaments all over the country and sometimes internationally. He practices twice a week, for about an hour and a half per day, and his personal best is 199 pins in a game.

Michael has previously competed in the 2009 National Summer Games held in Palmerston North, and in other big events such as the Special Olympics Trans Tasman Tournament held in Cairns, Australia in 2012. 

A highlight of Michael’s career has been winning the Hawke's Bay open tournament about a month ago, making him the men’s singles champion in all of Hawke's Bay. 

Michael is very social and loves working with people, especially Barbara Nonu who owns the Superstrike bowling lanes in Hastings. Michael Fagan is his favourite pro bowler, and he likes to watch his videos on YouTube. Michael also enjoys playing computer games, particularly ones which are bowling-themed! 

Name: David Smith

Team: Manakau
Position: Athlete
Sport: Bocce

David Smith has been a dedicated athlete for many years. He has participated in Athletics, and Swimming, and now has a keen interest in Indoor Bowls and Bocce. 

David first got involved with Special Olympic 25 years ago (in 1989). He has done very well over the years, competing in many events and earning ribbons and medals. More importantly however, David has given everything ago, and competed to the best of his ability. 

David has seen great benefits from competing in Special Olympics sports, with improvements in his concentration, coordination and footwork. Playing Bocce for the Special Olympics has also given David the opportunity to socialize with other people of similar interests. 

David’s father, Colin Smith has been coaching for 21 years, and picked up the Head Coach role for the Manakau Bocce team four or five years ago. 

Name: James Bott

Team: North Harbour
Position: Athlete
Sport: Golf

James Bott has only been playing golf for just over a year but has been competing with Special Olympics for more than eight years. He competed in football at the National Summer Games 2009 in Palmerston North, and in aquatics at the 2005 Christchurch Games. James also competed in the regional Taupo Games in golf before coming to the National Summer Games 2013. 

James turned to golf because of a knee injury, but is really enjoying the exercise that he gets playing the sport. "Golf is a great sport, because you can still play when you get older, when your joints are bad." he says. 

James believes that "the highlight of competing in the National Summer Games is the camaraderie – helping people out, being a role model for my peers, and making new friends". He has also benefited from the Healthy Athlete Screening programme, receiving a new pair of glasses this week. 

James said that before he knew about Special Olympics, he played rugby for his high school team, but found himself very frustrated because he was often benched or over-looked. Now that he is part of Special Olympics he has a chance to compete to his ability and try his best. James referred to the lyrics of Sarah Conlan’s song 'Soaring High', and the way in which they capture Special Olympics and Special Olympians perfectly. 

On the whole, James had a great day competing on Day Two. He had some really good drives that both he and his coach were proud of. James pointed out that while there are good and bad days playing golf, he always tries his best and has fun. 

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