The Manawatū Special Olympians are gearing up for the World Games in Abu Dhabi and the team of 15 leaves on March 4 with five coaches.

Local athlete Ryan Smith has the honour of carrying the torch for New Zealand and will join nine other athletes from around the world.

Ryan, who won gold at the 2011 Athens Special Olympic Games in the 4x100 relay, was nominated to carry the torch. He said he runs every Saturday and added he felt privileged to carry the torch.

Ryan will join torch bearers from Croatia, Trinidad, Tobago, the US and Canada who will represent 362 athletes from 382 countries.

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Athletes Braden Kendall and Matthew Westwood, basketballer Mark Cressingham, swimmer Libby Sheppard and Natasha Nicholson who plays bocce, are the five Special Olympians who are paired with a support player for the World Games.

Last week the team joined Palmerston North Police and Fire Service in a run to The Square where they took part in a polar plunge.