Rotorua will be well represented at the World Special Olympic Games in Abu Dhabi next year, with a second local athlete being named to compete.

Maureen McLeod will play for the New Zealand Special Olympics football team in March next year. She will join Rotorua's Ruaumoko Pukepuke, who was named in the New Zealand Special Olympics basketball team in May.

At the games, football is a unified sport which means the team is made up of a mixture of intellectually disabled athletes and athletes without these disabilities.

McLeod was thrilled to find out she had made the team.


"I am going to Abu Dhabi next year! I'm excited to go to a big city, fly on the airplane and play soccer in a big stadium. I'm going to Wellington to practice with my team."

Training camps will be held in Wellington during the lead-up to the games. This is where athletes will meet the rest of the team and coaches for the first time.

McLeod's mother and Special Olympics Rotorua sports co-ordinator Stella McLeod said everyone was "very proud" of her daughter.

"She has always been good at ball sports so when she joined Special Olympics we hoped one day she would be chosen for the World Summer Games. But, as we knew more and realised how few people from New Zealand ever get the chance to go, we didn't think it would happen.

"We are delighted Maureen will have the experience as she was a keen follower of the Olympic Games as a child."

Special Olympics Rotorua secretary Jess Gibbs said both McLeod and Pukepuke deserved national recognition.

"We are very proud to have two athletes from our club travelling over to represent New Zealand at the World Games. To get two athletes selected from our club is such a huge achievement not only for our club, but the athletes themselves and their families."