Special athletes taste the action

A day of sports in the sunshine was lapped up by pupils from around the region who ran, jumped and wheeled their way to success in the Special Olympics Secondary Schools' Athletics day in Palmerston North.

The Massey University track was host to more than 100 special needs pupils from seven schools yesterday.

Student volunteers from Freyberg High School and Awatapu College assisted 105 competitors hailing from Waiopehu College in Levin, Tararua College, Freyberg High School, Feilding High School, Awatapu College, Rangitikei College and Arahunga School.

The event is run once a term for pupils with physical or intellectual disabilities, and yesterday's meet was full of "smiles all round", Special Olympics regional co-ordinator Julia Sanson said.

"We want them all to succeed within their ability range," she said. "What we want to do is involve them in sports, there is a lot of opportunity, sport is great for health and [these events] can validate them as athletes."

The teenagers competed in track events, including sprints, shot put, long jump and a 25-metre wheelchair race.

It was also a recruitment day, with organisers hopeful some new secondary school athletes would join up to club athletics, with qualifying events coming up for a chance to go to the Special Olympics New Zealand National Summer Games, which will be held in Dunedin at the end of this year.

Manawatu Standard