22 September 2004
Special Olympics Figuring Large
Special Olympics New Zealand Ice Figure Skaters are really going places. Thanks to the addition of Special Olympics
categories, four Special Olympics athletes are competing for the first time in this week's New Zealand National Ice
Figure Skating Championship, an annual mainstream event held this year in Queenstown.
Athletes Nick Apperley (20), Ben Southern (20), Shannon Russell (18, all from Christchurch), and Elle Black (11, from
Queenstown) have been preparing for the competition all year. As well as regular training, Nick, Ben and Shannon skated
at the Centaurus Club Championships in July, putting together good performances and getting much needed competition
practice. Nick, who competes at an exceptionally high level, recently returned from the Australian National Ice Figure
Skating Championships where he ranked 10th against mainstream skaters in the Novice Men grade. Nick also won gold at the
Special Olympics Nagano National Games held in Japan in February this year.
"Ice Figure Skating is a relatively new programme for Special Olympics, but our athletes are excelling in it," said
Special Olympics New Zealand CEO Angus McLeod. "We're thrilled that the organisers of the National Championship have
decided to include categories for Special Olympics athletes. Support like this gives our athletes more opportunities to
compete and to improve their skills."
Nick is particularly glad of the experience he will gain at the National Championships. His selection as a team member
for the 2005 Special Olympics World Winter Games will see him return to Japan in February next year to skate against
Special Olympics athletes from a number of other countries.
"Nick loves skating and trains at least 7 times a week," said Nick's father Eric Apperley. "He's had so many
opportunities to compete thanks to the support of Special Olympics and the NZISA, and I'm really looking forward to
seeing more people like him get interested in the sport."