The Special Olympics World Winter Games will be held in Austria from 14-25 March 2017 where 3,000 athletes with an intellectual disability from 117 nations will compete across nine wintersports disciplines: Alpine skiing, figure skating, floor ball, floor hockey, Nordic skiing, snow shoeing, snowboarding, speed skating and stick shooting, with floor hockey and floor ball having the most participants.
Australia will be represented by 12 athletes who will compete across two disciplines: Alpine skiing and snowboarding. They will be supported by five volunteer officials and cheered on by a small group of families and supporters at the Games and many more at home via social media. This will be only the second-time that Australian athletes have competed in snowsports at a World Winter Games. At the last Special Olympics World Winter Games in PyeongChang, Republic of Korea in 2013 our team of five athletes returned home with an extraordinary 13 medals: 3 gold, 6 silver and 4 bronze.
Head of Delegation: Sharyn Harris, NSW
Head Coach: Jeremy Smith, QLD | Snowboard Coach: Jeroen Leenders, NSW
Ski Coaches: Amanda Gannon, NSW | Mick Harris, NSW
When the World Winter Games kick off in March 2017 Alex will be 20 years-old making him the baby of the team. This will be the first time Alex has represented Australia and he is “very proud” and looking forward to giving it his best. After Austria, he wants to “ski in lots of different countries.” Apart from skiing, Alex enjoys basketball, jogging, soccer, bike riding, listening to music and catching up with friends.
On her selection to represent Australia at the World Winter Games, Amanda said, “It makes me feel very proud to be an Australian athlete and I am excited to be going to Austria.” Outside of training Amanda enjoys going to the beach, going to the movies and catching up with friends for lunch. If she could do anything she wanted Amanda says, “I would like to drive a car.”
Ben is the oldest member of Team Australia at the age of 35. This will be his first Special Olympics World Winter Games and he says, “It’s an amazing feeling to know I will represent my country.” And he has high ambitions. “I want to win gold.” he says. Ben admires fellow Australian champion Torah Bright because “she seems like a really nice person and she is really good at what she does.”
It’s an exciting time for Brenton. Not only will he represent Australia for the first time in wintersports he has welcomed his first child with wife Emily. Emily is also a Special Olympics Australia athlete. He says, “I’m proud to be representing my country at the highest level and I am going to do my best.” Asked what he would do if he could do anything he wanted he replied, “I’d just enjoy my life. I’m lucky. I hope that others with disabilities get the opportunities I’ve had.”
In 2013, at the age of 27, Craig was the first and only snowboarder to represent Australia at a Special Olympics World Winter Games and he scooped three silver medals! Craig says that being selected to compete in Austria is the highlight of his sporting career. When asked if he had a message for the competitors in Austria Craig said, “Enjoy the experience of representing your country…but look out, the Aussies are coming!!” Craig’s dad was born in Austria and he has family there who will watch him compete.
David is only the second snowboarder ever to be selected to represent Australia at a World Winter Games and he says, “This is fantastic! It makes me pretty proud to compete for my country. Not many people get that opportunity.” He also has some wise words for fellow athletes, “Don’t give up on that dream of competing for your country. Keep training and you never know, you might win a medal.” David would like to become a professional snowboarder like Olympic gold-medalist Sean White from the US.
Kristian is “happy” to have been selected to compete for Australia at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in March 2017 and he promises “to do my best”. To the 3,000 competitors from 117 nations who will compete in Austria he says, “Good luck to everybody and have fun.” Outside of Special Olympics Australia Kristian goes to work, swims and enjoys watching Star Wars movies.
Luke has been training with Special Olympics Australia for almost twenty years and has participated in a wide variety of sports. In 2003, Luke won his first international medal for Australia when he picked up two gold, one silver and one bronze medal at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Ireland. Ten years later, at the 2013 World Winter Games in Korea he picked up three bronze medals in Alpine skiing. His advice to other competitors is, “Try your best, but remember you’re already a champion.”
There’s no doubt that Olivia loves sport and life! When asked what she would be if she could be anything she wanted, she simply answered, “a movie star”. Olivia has Down syndrome and chooses to participate with Special Olympics Australia, as well as with Down syndrome Swimming Australia, and has represented Australia on many occasions in the pool but this will be her first time skiing for Australia and she says, “It’s a huge honour to wear the green and gold.”
At Games time Perrin will be 21 years old and this will be his first World Winter Games. Perrin says, “I want make my family proud and demonstrate the ability of people with special needs.” In future he would like to pursue a full-time career in sport. In the meantime, he continues to train and compete while keeping up with his other interests like playing the didgeridoo and line-dancing with his grandma.
Sara is thrilled to have been selected to represent Australia at the World Winter Games and says, “All my life I have watched Australian sporting teams wearing the green and gold and now I’m going to join them. It will be the best experience of my life. I know my family, friends and all Australians will be cheering for me.” Sarah works at Coles, coaches children with disabilities to play football (soccer) and volunteers at the local Animal Protection Society and as a surf lifesaver.
Shaun will be 26 years old when he competes at his first World Winter Games, but he is no stranger to international success. In 2013, Shaun was the first medallist at the Special Olympics Asia Pacific Games when he won silver in the 5,000m track event. However, he says that the best thing that has happened to him at Special Olympics Australia is being selected for Austria 2017. Shaun also holds a bronze medal in football (soccer) which he won at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in 2011.