Special Olympics New Zealand's recent 2011 National Winter Games were a great success with 51 athletes competing. Below we feature five of these athletes, read more about Josie Noble, Troy Rangi, Dale Henderson, Ariel Knight and Ella Sharples.
Earlier this year Josie Noble was battling the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Christchurch. Now, she is revelling in glory.
Josie and her family moved to Christchurch from the Manawatu just prior to the 22 February, 2011 earthquake. Despite the move and its disruptive impact on her training schedule, Josie made it to the 2011 National Winter Games and won a gold medal (Alpine Novice Giant Slalom) and a silver medal (Alpine Skiing Novice Slalom) for the Canterbury team.
For Special Olympics North Harbour’s Troy Rangi, the 2011 National Winter Games was particularly special. It was the first time he skied on a mountain with real snow.
Up until the Games he had only skied in Auckland’s indoor Snow Planet complex, where he spent the previous 12 months training. He proved to be rather adaptable though, skiing so well in the divisioning process that he was advanced from the Novice sections of the Alpine Skiing Super G, Slalom and Giant Slalom events to the Intermediate sections. He then went on to surprise himself by winning a gold medal in each event!
Troy has made a name for himself at excelling at sports. He not only skis but also swims, and plays basketball and football for Special Olympics North Harbour. He is one of the Upper North Island’s fastest swimmers and was awarded the Siobhan Grey Memorial Cup last year, alongside fellow Club swimmer Amanda Moore. In November he will be representing Special Olympics North Harbour at Special Olympics New Zealand’s Trans Tasman tournament in Wellington.
Outside of sports training, Troy works at Pak ‘n’ Save Albany and loves to sing. “Troy is a great ambassador for Special Olympics New Zealand,” says Jane Haskell, one of his keen supporters. “He shows great sportsmanship and has a wonderful attitude. If you ever want a real surprise ask him to sing you something from Joseph’s Technicolour Dreamcoat!”
Special Olympics Hibiscus Coast was our newest club to participate in the National Winter Games. It picked up the mantle to raise all the funds needed for its two skiers Dale Henderson and Ariel Knight to travel to Wanaka. Both had incredible success.
Dales, who only started skiing only two years ago, won gold in the Alpine Skiing Super G (second division) and was placed fourth in the Giant Slalom. Dale's mother Mary says his success was even more amazing for the fact that he has severe autism.
"Normally (an event like the National Winter Games) would be very socially challenging, however he was able to be well supported and so able to participate and compete. We know now that next time he will find this more predictable and easier due to the great structure that is upheld with Special Olympics," she says.
"We see this as a great pathway for him to add in some quality relationships and activities into his teenage and adult life. Everyone at school, and his family, are thrilled for him. There have been tears and congratulations all week and he will be honoured at his school assembly this Thursday where he attends in mainstream with his brothers."
Ariel Knight won gold in the Alpine Skiing Novice Slalom - belying the fact that she only had 10 ski lessons at Auckland's Snow Planet before competing at Cardrona Alpine Resort, which was her first experience on a mountain.
"Ariel had an absolute learning experience going from the indoors to the outdoors. The snow is different and there is so much to deal with concentrating on what the surfaces are doing," says Ariel's mother Odette, who accompanied her to Wanaka as a support coach.
"Special Olympics has made a huge difference to Ariel over the past two years (she is also involved with equestrian). Ariel is shy and not good at making friends but (at Special Olympics) there are a lot of people that are similar and they have been very welcoming and friendly," says Odette.
Coach Joanna Donovan and Ella Sharples
Ella Sharples from Special Olympics Auckland is well known for her kind and caring manner but she also has an intense grit and determination when it comes to her sports training and competition. She is very goal driven and she made it her aim at the 2011 National Winter Games to "do better than ever so she could be considered for selection for the World Games in Korea".
As a Special Olympics New Zealand Global Messenger, Ella took a key role in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. Her quiet encouragement of her peers was clearly evident throughout the Games even though her focus did not wane from doing well in her own right. She was duly rewarded by winning gold in the advanced divisioin in the Alpine Skiing Super G and Slalom and bronze in the Giant Slalom.
Ella joined Special Olympics in 1985 and in that time she has competed in 10 National Games. An avid sportswoman competing in athletics, basketball, aquatics, soccer, powerlifting, skiing and snowboarding, she was the athlete representative on her club committee from 2001-2004. In her Athlete Leadership role, Ella aspires to become a coach in both skiing and snowboarding so she can assist with the expansion of our snow sports programme across New Zealand. Her leadership style certainly demonstrates her ability to connect positively with her fellow athletes and she is well suited to sharing her knowledge and experience with others.
Ella thoroughly enjoyed her time at Cardrona Alpine Resort saying that it was her "favourite National Games" as there were "good facilities and excellent competition courses". She also strongly commended her coach Joanna Donovan for all her support to assist her in achieving gold.