Josh Taylor, left, with his trophy for 2021-22 Wairarapa Disabled Sportsperson of the Year, with Brent Stewart from Masterton Mitre 10 MEGA. PHOTO/FILE
Missing a season of club rugby will be the biggest sacrifice for Wairarapa disabled athlete Josh Taylor after his selection for the 2023 Special Olympics Summer Games in Berlin.
Taylor, 20, was on Tuesday named in the 40-strong New Zealand team that will travel to the German capital in June for eight days of competition.
More than 7000 athletes from 190 countries will compete across 26 sports in the world’s largest inclusive sporting event.
Taylor, who suffers from mild intellectual disability with global developmental delay, will compete in the 200m and 400m and possibly a sprint relay and in the javelin throw.
Although excited about the prospect of representing New Zealand, Taylor is disappointed he will miss a season of rugby, usually on the wing or off the bench, for his beloved Masterton Red Star senior reserve team.
“I have to miss out on rugby so yeah, but I think it’s a good thing, so I don’t get injured,” Taylor said.
The four-time Wairarapa Disabled Sportsperson of the Year winner and the People’s Choice award winner at the 2021-22 Wairarapa Sports Awards will ramp up his training over the summer, with a heavy schedule under Athletics Wairarapa coach John Quinn.
The Special Olympics National Summer Games in December in Hamilton are his initial target, followed by a tilt at the para events at the National Track and Field Championships in Wellington in March 2023.
First up though Taylor will join the full New Zealand team at their first training camp in Wellington from November 4-6 where the competitors will get to know each other and their coaches.
The World Summer Games will be the pinnacle of many of the Special Olympians’ careers and chief executive of Special Olympics New Zealand Carolyn Young said it’s vital they get a thorough build-up.
That resulted in the naming of the national team being brought forward because of the covid forced postponement of the 2021 National Summer Games.
“That created a tricky situation for naming a team for the World Summer Games because we want to give the team a decent period to prepare, so we decided to name the team ahead of the National Summer Games,” Young said.
In the lead-up to the World Summer Games, the New Zealand delegation will first travel to the south of Germany where they will be hosted by the city of Garching on the outskirts of Munich from June 12-15. From there, they will move into the Berlin athletes’ village ahead of the opening ceremony on June 17.
Special Olympics New Zealand received a large number of nominations from 21 clubs around the country making the competition places in many sports fierce.
“New Zealand only gets limited allocations in the nine sports we are competing in, so we had to make some difficult decisions and some very deserving athletes had to miss out,” Young said.
The athletes will be supported by 19 coaches and support staff, under the guidance of the head of delegation Rowena Massey, who was assistant head of delegation at the last World Games in Abu Dhabi in 2019.
Massey said that the selection process included a complex set of considerations, not just the sporting ability, as Special Olympics athletes have different intellectual disabilities or additional health challenges.
“Flying around the world to compete and live in an unfamiliar environment can be very challenging for our athletes,” she said.
“We had to consider how independent the athletes are if they can travel without their family if their health situation allows them to travel, but also how long have they been part of Special Olympics or if they have attended previous World Games.”
Taylor said he is pretty happy and very proud of his achievement, and he would love to see his photo on the wall of the Wairarapa College hall alongside the school’s other New Zealand representatives.