Special Olympians win 17 medals and still going

Last updated 00:00 08/10/2007

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They are only halfway through the games, but New Zealand's Special Olympians have already claimed a haul of medals in China.

The 49-member team had won 17 medals by yesterday afternoon - five golds, six silvers and six bronzes.

They had also achieved 12 personal bests and collected 11 ribbons for fourth to seventh place-getters.

More than 7000 athletes from around the world are competing in the four-yearly Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghai.

The games are the largest sporting event in the world this year, dwarfing both the Rugby World Cup and the America's Cup.

Palmerston North swimmer Jordan Wilson, 29, was the first Kiwi to claim gold, winning the 100 metres backstroke. He was "very excited" by the win.

"I just kept on going, kept on going until the end."

Mr Wilson has only 10 per cent vision in one eye and no vision in the other.

One of his coaches, Helen Johnson, said he had been training for about 18 months. "Jordan has been working extremely hard. A few months ago, we didn't think he could see the flags (in the pool). But he can."

His goggles had prescription lenses.

Mr Wilson, who is competing in his first world games, said he was enjoying Shanghai.

"It's a wonderful place."

But the food and limited exercise opportunities have proved a trap for some athletes.

Palmerston North power-lifter Laura Burmeister had to go on a short-term diet after she was found to be 1.5 kilograms too heavy for her weight category, meaning she would have had to compete against bigger women in the next category up.

Delegation head Sue Kysow said team management had asked the hotel to provide simple, non-fried food for her.

She had lost 2kg within two days, in time to compete in her intended weight class on Saturday.

She ended up winning two silvers and two bronzes.

The games competition started last Wednesday and will run till Thursday.

Kiwi athletes are competing in swimming, athletics, basketball, bocce (similar to petanque), ten-pin bowling, equestrian, gymnastics, golf and power-lifting.

Twenty coaches and three managers have accompanied them. Community fundraising covered most of the $530,000 cost of sending the contingent to the games.

Other Kiwis are taking part as match officials.

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- The Dominion Post

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