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Meet the 2020 Attitude Awards Nominees

On Wednesday 2nd December the 2020 Attitude Awards will be celebrating the achievements and successes of New Zealanders living with disabilities, recognising athletes, young New Zealanders who are game-changers in the community.

We’re thrilled to announce the four nominees for the prestigious Special Olympics Award, which honours a passionate Special Olympics athlete whose involvement in sport highlights the value of physical activity and wellbeing and who has risen above challenges and limitations.

You can watch this special hour-long televised special, packed with entertainment, winners and highlights from the night, on TVNZ1. Details released at a later date.

Cuda Tawhai, Sarah Dalton, Hamish Gilbert, Sandra Wilson

Cuda Tawhai

Cuda has been a rising swimming star at Special Olympics Taupo and the wider community for nearly a decade, however in his early years Cuda would often be unable to compete as his autism, ADHD, epilepsy and visual impairment would leave him unable to take to the start line of a swimming race.

However, with great support from coaches and Special Olympics, Cuda has worked hard in and out of the water and has since been competing successfully in swimming, including being in the 2019 New Zealand Para swimming team that competed in Australia as a part of the INAS Global Games 2019.

Cuda is an inspiration to everyone around him, supporting the community through building awareness of New Zealanders with ID, and promoting the importance of  health and fitness for everyone – not just for the elite. Cuda shows his heart to other athletes by helping out any chance he can and is growing, learning and developing alongside his family and the Taupo community.   

Just by doing what he loves Cuda has been knocking down the barriers of disability from an extremely young age, achieving in swimming, public speaking and more, just by being himself. 

Sarah Dalton

Sarah has a rare condition called Charge syndrome which affects all of her senses and some of her organs, but despite having over 30 operations in her life she doesn’t let anything slow her down! Sarah has competed in Equestrian for the last 10 years and has overcome many challenges including an inability to see more than a metre in front of her which she has overcome by memorizing her dressage courses in advance and counting the paces of her horse. 

In 2019 Sarah completed the Special Olympics athlete leadership programme which Sarah embraced to become a confident public speaker at events, including recently being the keynote speaker at the 2020 Australasian CHARGE Syndrome Conference. 

Sarah is very active on social media as an advocate for the Intellectual Disability community as well as for anti-bullying. Through her Instagram and SONZ’s social media pages she inspires her community. Recently she provided great advice during the Covid-19 Lockdown, including tips on staying positive, protecting those who are vulnerable, and staying fit and healthy. 

You don’t have to spend long in a room with Sarah to feel inspired by her. Sarah embraces all of life’s opportunities and doesn’t let Charge Syndrome define who she is. 

Hamish Gilbert

Hamish’s journey has not been easy. But his perseverance and passion has shone through every step of the way, inspiring others and becoming an advocate for inclusion in the community.   

Hamish was born with Down Syndrome which caused low muscle tone and poor fine motor control. This affected his ability to swim, now his favourite Special Olympics sport, which took a lot of swimming lessons and a lot of practice. Hamish joined Special Olympics in 2014 and began training in swimming once a week which saw his stamina and skills rapidly increase, culminating in his competing at the 2017 National Summer Games. 

Hamish’s attitude and commitment toward getting his Duke of Edinburgh’s award is inspiring for all students. When Hamish’s school was unable to find support for him to participate in Duke of Edinburgh, Hamish persevered and decided that he would undertake the Duke of Edinburgh award anyway, starting out with Bronze and now having completed his gold award and inspiring others in the community to follow in his footsteps. 

Hamish learnt sign language at a young age in order to be able to communicate and never looked back. Lots of hard work culminated in Hamish learning to speak and now he loves standing up in front of an audience and deliver amazing speeches, a highlight being his captivating 25-minute speech at the launch of the Special Olympics Duke of Edinburgh club.  

Hamish’s successes have helped him rise above the perpetual ‘can’t do’ label that follows people with disabilities around and his confidence, successes and can-do attitude is a huge inspiration to others in the community. 

Sandra Wilson

Sandra is a long-time member of our Special Olympics whānau, joining as an equestrian rider in 1990 before going on to compete in swimming and tenpin bowling.  

Born with Congenital Cerebal Palsy Sandra has had numerous operations to improve her movement and requires two sticks in order to move.  This meant initial difficulties with swimming as she would swim in circles because all her strength was on one side.  This did not deter her and she persevered and competed in swimming for many years. Today she continues to compete in tenpin bowling and has proven herself to be an amazing athlete, competing in six National Summer Games and earning over 70 medals and ribbons. 

Through Special Olympics Sandra has found a goal to work towards and allows her to join in with other athletes and do her best. This year has been a tough time for Sandra, requiring her to be in and out of hospital for numerous operations. Yet she has never let this slow her down and has only made her more determined to keep growing her abilities and never give up. 

Sandra makes the most out of everyday, she doesn’t let her disability define who she is or what she has can achieve. Her attitude is inspiring to everyone who knows her, she is always wearing a smile and gives a bright hello to everyone she meets. 

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