Nine-year-old Amos van Asch loves skiing, swimming, horse riding and is starting to enjoy athletics.
And it’s likely Amos, who has Down syndrome, will improve his sports skills even more with the introduction of a local branch of Special Olympics New Zealand.
Parents and family members of people with intellectual disabilities met last night with the aim to kickstart the group, which will provide sports opportunities for those local kids who normally miss out.
SONZ, part of the worldwide body Special Olympics International, offers kids and adults weekly training for typical Olympic events, as well as positive interaction and support.
Kiwi athletes train to compete or participate in national winter and summer games – in Central Otago (winter) next year and in Dunedin (summer) in 2013. They also have the chance to enter the four-yearly Special Olympics World Games, held in Athens, Greece, next year.
For Queenstown kids such as Amos, it’s been a struggle to make the practices because the nearest branch has been in Alexandra. That will change with a branch being organised in Queenstown.
Parents Caroline and Henry van Asch signed him up last summer when he entered a Central Otago club athletics event.
“I wasn’t sure if Amos would participate in anything, but even if he didn’t participate, the environment is so encouraging he felt so good about himself,” Caroline says.
The Van Asch family backs the creation of a local SONZ branch.
“There’s a few of us with Down syndrome kids in Queenstown, so to set something up here would be really neat.”
SONZ lower South Island regional sports coordinator Jan Aitken, who ran last night’s meeting, is keen
for as many athletes, families, volunteers and coaches to join as possible.
“These are valued members of our society, but aren’t always thought of that way,” Aitken says. “Special Olympics is all-inclusive – from low developmental to high-functioning athletes. Inclusion’s a fantastic thing.”