Bay of Plenty powerlifter Caroline Tangitau replicated the stunning feat of her team-mate Ryan Stewart by winning four silver medals at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Berlin.
“It went great,” was Tangitau’s wonderful understatement after claiming four medals in the largest inclusive sports event on the planet, where 7000 competitors with an intellectual disability from 190 countries compete in 26 sports.
Like Stewart two days earlier, the lifter from Katikati had to admit defeat to a superior rival in Chinese athlete Sulin Xiong, but still claimed second spot in the squat, bench-press and deadlift, to also claim silver in the overall competition.
Tangitau was especially happy with her performance in the squat and did not linger on taking second place.
“I really enjoyed it and pleased I got a medal for New Zealand,” said Tangitau who works as a volunteer daycare worker and the local chippie in Katikati.
New Zealand Head coach Sonia Manaena said few athletes deserved their success like Tangitau, who been part of Special Olympics for 29 years and has been powerlifting for seven.
“Caroline has had to make some big sacrifices because her usual coach Brian Jenkins in Tauranga was unable to prepare her for nationals and the World Games so she had to travel twice a week to Morrinsville to prepare for Berlin.”
“It was a pleasure to coach a wonderful happy athlete like Caroline,” said the coach.
Tangitau’s quadruple silvers were at the top end of a day of high drama for the New Zealand Special Olympics team in Berlin, where the moments of success and euphoria were intertwined with deflation and near misses.
The fourth day of competition was extremely successful for the Bay of Plenty as tenpin bowler Len Just from Tauranga and his partner Josh Ryan from the Manawatu club claimed bronze in the men’s doubles behind Canada and the Netherlands. Both players had already picked up bronze in the Teams Event a day earlier.
Unfortunately, another Manawatu athlete Jamie Davidson remained unrewarded on the athletics track for one of the biggest mini-javelin throws of his life, over 13m, which sadly disqualified him, as the throw was outside the division limits that he was competing in, according to the Special Olympics rules.
Taranaki’s Melissa Cash was disappointed for other reasons as she was considered a gold-medal contender but had to settle for bronze.
While one athlete was deflated over bronze, Quentin Mahoney from Wellington was over the moon after holding off several rivals for the bronze medal.
“The two other guys were way ahead so it was great to get the bronze,” said Mahoney who recently ran the Christchurch marathon, but had to race the shorter distances in Berlin.
When asked if racing in the 30deg Berlin heat was a problem, Mahoney shrugged his shoulders and said “It’s just like Wellington”.
In the pool, the New Zealand swimming team of Jesse Williams (Manawatu), Matthew Smith (Te Awamatu), Haven Drinnan (North Canterbury) and Bella Lammers (Selwyn) claimed a bronze medal in a tightly contested 4x25m freestyle relay race, again setting a new best time after improving their time in the semis as well.
The New Zealanders were chasing the field the entire race, as coach Carla L’Huillier decided not to use the fastest swimmers first, like most other teams, and Williams finished an amazing catch-up race and even got agonisingly close to silver.
The medals were a nice consolation for Lammers and Williams after earlier in the day missing out on a medal in the 25m freestyle finals by the narrowest of margins.
In the golf tournament, Mitch Brown from Auckland now has a firm grip on the gold medal after carding another solid round of 75 to move 12 shots clear of the rest of the field. Only a major change of form would keep the Aucklander from picking up the gold medal in Berlin on Thursday.
In the famous Olympiastadion, the New Zealand football team was eliminated from the tournament after a narrow 6-4 defeat to Switzerland. Conor McCarthy from the Hutt Valley scored four stunning goals, but was gracious in defeat. “I had a great game, but we knew Switzerland would be tough and they were just a bit better than us,” said the lethal striker.
“We are still really proud that we are the first New Zealand team at the World Summer Games to win a match (against Austria), so we are pretty happy with our performance.
The New Zealand 3×3 Unified basketball team started the day with an impressive 15-14 win over Brazil, only to lose on the buzzer to Germany, 11-10, in pool play, before Kenya proved too strong for the Kiwis, 15-6.