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"Equality in One World"

Kiwis Win Gold at FESPIC '99

The seven athletes and eleven-member wheelchair basketball team who represented New Zealand at the FESPIC Games in Bangkok in January 1999 broke records and brought home medals.

Wheelchair racers Matt Slade (Christchurch) and Michelle Nunn (Invercargill) both won gold. Twenty year old Matt, who has cerebral palsy, won gold in the 200m and silver in the 100m class event. Michelle, at 17 the youngest member of the team, won gold in the 100m. Last year, Matt won bronze and silver medals at the IPC World Athletics Champs in Birmingham, UK, while FESPIC '99 was Michelle's first international competition.

Michelle Nunn
photo: Southland Times

Michelle Nunn

On the basketball court, the ParaBlacks won a bronze medal after beating the defending champs Australia 63-37. ParaBlacks coach Dave McCallum says this is a major step forward in the team's campaign to qualify for the Sydney Paralympics. Their next big event is the Oceania Qualifying Zone tournament to be held in December in Taupo.

In other events, Phil Hansford threw a personal best in his class for javelin and was placed fifth overall, Lee Rutene broke his own New Zealand record in the 50m backstroke by 23 seconds and wheelchair racer Paddy O'Donnell smashed his own personal best time in the 100m T55 race in a time of 17.79 seconds.

The wheelchair basketball team were Daniel Begman, Rodney Bell, Shane Davies, Wolo Elisaia, Michael Hall, Travis Moffat, Geoffrey Palmer, James Rollo, Dave Sherriff, Seamus Tahata and David Venter. Other New Zealand athletes who competed were Terry Falevaai and Colin Willis.

FESPIC stands for the Far East and South Pacific Games for the Disabled, and the four yearly games aim to promote equal rights and opportunities for everyone. Their slogan is "Equality in One World".

The first games were held in Japan in 1975, with 973 participants from 18 countries. The 1999 games are the 7th, and over 3,000 athletes from 42 countries around the world participated in 15 different sports.

Participating athlete Phanumas Suk-Umporn, from Thailand, said "sports for the disabled show that any disabled person who is ready for the Games is ready to accept that he or she may be disabled but is ready to face to society and deal with problems just like able-bodied people, like a lion returning to the jungle. If a disabled person understands and accepts his or her disability, it shows the presence of will power, a strong mind and the greatest potential for physical rehabilitation".

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