Two years to go until Special Olympics take over Christchurch

Canterbury Special Olympics athletes and coaches can’t wait for the National Summer Games taking over Christchurch in two years.

Over 1300 athletes with an intellectual disability and thousands of coaches, volunteers and families will be pouring into the Garden City for their four-yearly pinnacle event to compete in 11 sports at the brand-new venues around the city.

“I am really looking forward to competing on this track,” smiles Andrew Oswin as he gets his first look at the state-of-the art athletics track at the multi-sport facility at Ngā Puna Wai.

Ngā Puna Wai is one of many legacy facilities to emerge around Christchurch after the Canterbury earthquakes laid waste to several historical venues.

“Look what happened to QEII, it got munted. So it’s going to be absolutely great to be running on an artificial track again,” says Oswin, who will be competing at his fifth National Summer Games, kicking off on December 10, 2025.

Canterbury is traditionally represented by a large contingent at the National Summer Games, but many athletes missed out on the last edition in Hamilton in 2022 due to Covid-19 concerns.

Athletics coach Karin Lamb says it has been a long time between drinks since Christchurch last hosted the National Summer Games in 2005 and the hometown advantage would benefit many local athletes.

“It’s quite an effort to get a big team like Canterbury off to the National Games and to have it here means that we can include a whole lot more athletes. Cost-wise it’s easier and it’s not so stressful on some of the more disabled athletes,” says Lamb, who has been a volunteer coach with Special Olympics for over two decades.

Special Olympics offers people with an intellectual disability the opportunity to compete against athletes at of similar ability, grow their confidence and make new friends.

“Because there is a divisioning process according to ability, they all get that joy of winning or nearly winning and it’s a very positive experience. Then there’s also the positive experience of making friends and socialising with people who accept you for who you are, which is a big deal when you have an intellectual disability.”

Andrew Oswin says that the social aspect is just as important as competing, and the closing ceremony disco for many athletes is the true highlight of the National Summer Games.

“I joined Special Olympics, so that I can get may plenty of opportunities to make new friendships,  attend training sessions and have a lot of fun.”

Special Olympics New Zealand Chief Executive Fran Scholey says that Oswin’s antipication towards the National Summer Games is reflected around New Zealand.

“Athletes across the country are already deciding, which sport they will compete in, training is underway and there is no doubt the excitement is building, even this far out,” says Scholey.

In her first few months in the her role, the new chief executive has met with clubs and athletes from around the regions and the National Summer Games are already high on the agenda.

“There is a real buzz out there with our clubs. This is an immensely important opportunity for our athletes and a huge undertaking for our clubs who not only invest huge amounts of time and energy ensuring the athletes are ready, but also significant time into fundraising to make it possible”.

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