‘I had a dream to win gold’
“I had a dream to go to the World Games and win gold,” said Invercargill powerlifter Lynett Williams at the 2023 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Berlin in June.
After her final lift she told coach Sonia Manaena, “I did it, Coach” and “I am proud”. So were all the friends who greeted her on her arrival home with banners and whistles and a haka performed by students of Te Wharekura o Arowhenua. She has been supported by IDEA Services since 2011 and she started powerlifting eight years ago.
Lynett, 30, won a gold, two silvers and a bronze, topping the medals for the New Zealand squad. She was stunned by the welcome saying, “I was shocked”.
The New Zealand Special Olympics team earned a record 34 medals – five gold, 17 silver and 12 bronze. The 39 athletes in the squad joined 7000 other athletes with intellectual disabilities from 190 countries to compete in the nine-day event.
In Parliament, Sports Minister Grant Robertson congratulated the squad, not just for the medals won but for the many strong performances that exceeded personal bests.
He singled out Lynett for special mention, along with: Kāpiti footballer Cole Bailey who scored the first-ever goal at a Special Olympics World Summer Games; the team’s oldest member, Tauranga tenpin bowler Len Just, at 55, who won a gold and two bronze medals; and bocce player Aaron Campbell from Levin, who won New Zealand’s first gold medal of the competition.
Lynett lifted 105kg in the deadlift to win the gold. She won silver for the squat and silver overall. She won bronze for the bench press lift. The squad’s two other powerlifters, Ryan Stewart from Dunedin and Bay of Plenty powerlifter Caroline Tangitau, each won four silver medals.
New Zealand’s two remaining gold medals were won by Auckland golfer Mitch Brown and sprinter Melissa Cash in the 100m.
“I am confident these World Summer Games will have a lasting impact on Special Olympics worldwide and in New Zealand,” said Head of Delegation Rowena Massey. Around 80,000 spectators watched the opening ceremony at the Olympiastadion.
Rowena says the medals are an important recognition of achievements, but medal counts don’t always tell the full story. “We also look at athletes like our swimmers who ended up with two bronze medals but smashed personal bests every day in the pool and gave some top swimmers a real run for their money.”
One of those swimmers was Bella Lammers, who is the toast of the Selwyn swimming community after claiming a bronze medal. The 21-year-old from Rolleston finished third as part of the New Zealand team in the 4x25m relay.
“I am so famous. I have been on TV, so all my dreams have come true,” she said. Bella is supported by IHC company Choices NZ.
Meanwhile, the New Zealand football team won their first seven-a-side game on day three of the competition by beating an impressive Austrian team 7-1. Unfortunately, the team was eliminated from the tournament a day later, after a narrow 6-4 defeat to Switzerland. Conor McCarthy from the Hutt Valley scored four stunning goals.
Caption 1: The New Zealand squad celebrate after the games at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Lynett is with Hutt Valley footballer Conor McCarthy and swimmer Bella Lammers.