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Teams share their journeys to the Games and experiences competing

Name: Donna Lewer

Position: Head Coach, Basketball
Club: Manawatu

Eight athletes have travelled to Dunedin with their Head Coach Donna Lewer to represent Manawatu in the Basketball competitions at the Special Olympics National Summer Games (Nathan Abraham, Joshua Condliffe, Anaru Davis, Jonathan Jenkins, Jack Lewer, Craig Rowell, Joshua Lee Ryan).

They had a busy morning of competition on Day Two, competing in the skills competition, followed by two team competitions in the afternoon. All of the Manawatu team members agreed that the dribbling skill section was their favourite to compete in. 

The team has been training together for more than a year to get to where they are today. They have competed in regional competitions and games receiving ribbons, certificates, and medals, but Coach Donna said that the team's biggest achievement was getting to the National Summer Games 2013 all in one piece.

The team's ultimate goal would be to win gold, however any medal placing would be fantastic. 

The athletes agreed with Donna that competing in Basketball has really helped to improve their fitness levels. Donna also mentioned that Basketball has had a really positive impact on the athlete's teamwork and communication skills. 

Donna Lewer coaches both high school Basketball teams, and the Manawatu Special Olympics Basketball team. Coaching the Manawatu team has really given Donna "a different perspective on the game".

Team: Thames Valley

Special Olympics Thames Valley has 20 athletes competing across five different sports. The Club held many fundraising activities to get here including a Lions golf tournament, raffles, discos, and it has also received sponsorship from the Valda Trust.

Athletes, Coaches, and supporters have traveled along way to make it to the National Summer Games 2013, and everyone is absolutely thrilled to be here. Athletes and coaches are proud to see their vibrant team colours going strong.

There have been many highlights over the week for the Thames Valley athletes, including athlete Jonathan Read received a gold medal in the 400-meter walk at the athletics. 

Special Olympics Thames Valley athletes have also received two silver medals in the Indoor Bowls, a gold medal in Bocce, and a silver medal in the 100-meter race at athletics. There has also been success in the aquatics, and the nine-hole golf athlete has been going really well, with the awards ceremony being held later today. 

For several of the athletes, the National Summer Games 2013 is their third National Summer Games. For Peter Moyes, this is his fourth Special Olympics New Zealand National Summer Games. Peter has attended the Games in Auckland (2001), in Christchurch (2005), in Palmerston North (2009), and now in Dunedin (2013). Peter is really proud to be here after competing for such a long period of time. 

Team: Auckland

The Auckland team's biggest accomplishment is getting to the National Summer Games 2013, because one of the biggest obstacles for the athletes and coaches is the cost of traveling all the way down to Dunedin.

In order to overcome that challenge, the team has put in a huge effort to raise the funds needed to make it to the Games. Fundraising efforts included holding a dinner at the Alexandra Park Trots, selling raffles, holding movie nights, and contributions from the athletes. 

Special Olympics Auckland's athletes are competing in five sports including Basketball, Athletics, Bowling, Indoor Bowls, and Aquatics.

There have been some great accomplishments across the five sports, but the division 'B' Basketball team notes that their biggest achievement was to make it to the National Summer Games. This is especially the case for several of the basketball athletes, who are competing at the Special Olympics National Summer Games for their first time. The team noted, "Being here is an accomplishment in and of itself". It is six days of really hard work for the athletes and the coaches – everyone is really proud to have made it.

By Day Three, the Auckland Basketball team had faced some really tough games throughout the competition. With two more games to go, they hoped to compete to the best of their ability, and give it their all.

The Special Olympics Auckland team members have been training regularly and have attended regional competitions, however, the National Summer Games 2013 have been the main goal.

"The aim was to get to nationals, and perhaps even be nominated for the World Special Olympics next year," said some of the team members. 

All of the Auckland athletes have their own personal goals, and their supporters are really proud to see them achieve those goals.

Name: Alan Smith

Position: Team Manager
Team: Hutt Valley Basketball team
Players: Steven Bishop, Rene Bunker, Arthur Collins, Matthew Graham, Christopher Joseph, Dale MacKey, Daniel Murphy, Lance Pere, Wilson Stock, Jasmin Waetford

Alan Smith team manager for Hutt Valley Basketball team has been on the courtside cheering for his team over the past few days. Alan said he has been impressed with the phenomenal support the athletes give to their teammates and opponents. He remarked if the Hutt Valley team saw other teams struggling, they would hang back and give their support. 

Hutt Valley has been training for the National Summer Games 2013 for the last four months. In order to prepare, athletes have been doing a variety of cross-training exercises such as aqua jogging. Alan said that this is a good way to train for the athletes, because it gives them variety in their training, which keeps them interested. 

Alan thought that the Games were a great opportunity for the athletes involved, because it is an environment where they are treated as "normal people doing normal things".

The Hutt Valley Basketball team has been the national champions for three consecutive years. So far the division 'A' team have done well in the National Summer Games 2013, with two wins in the teams competitions.

"The Games have been a great success. The [baseketball] venue is great, the food is great – everything is great," he said. 

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