Every year hundreds of athletes with intellectual disabilities display their sporting prowess at the Special Olympics New Zealand National Summer Games.

The ninth edition of the games are being held in Wellington at the end of November with 47 Special Olympics Rotorua athletes in attendance.

Many of the athletes have the support of family members to get to the games - and Rotorua's basketball team, in particular, has a strong family influence.

The team is coached by Lorraine Pukepuke, managed by her daughter Keiha Pukepuke and includes her son Ruaumoko Pukepuke, niece Hinewai Vercoe and grandson Taua Rewi.


The other team members are Richard Waterreus, Bailey Dunbar, Levi Heke, Casey-lee Raston and Hannah Walmsley.

Lorraine said her family had a strong sporting background.

"Keiha is a good sportsperson, she's always played netball and other sports. My son Ruaumoko, since he was old enough to walk, has always been with us at netball, basketball, volleyball, you name it."

Lorraine and Keiha decided it was time to dedicate some time to Ruaumoko and the sport he loves.

"He learnt how to shoot [the basketball] at an early age, playing games with his friends, and he just loves it. Now that he's older, 22, we thought let's do this.

"With Keiha having her sporting ability it's quite good, she participates with them. I used to be a teacher and she's training to be one," she said.

All of the basketball players, as well as their coach and manager, will be attending the games for the first time.

"The whole lot of us are [excited]. We are quite competitive, but we know it's about having fun too - we have lots of laughs and giggles.

"There are a range of disabilities and it can be challenging. One boy is totally deaf so we have to do a lot of acting out what we want him to do, but it's really neat.

"We enjoy the environment and we can see a lot of potential. This is a really good mix of players because they can do a lot of things, it's full on at our training nights.

"We didn't know much about all of this, but now that we're involved I just want to tell everyone about it," Lorraine said.

Ruaumoko said his favourite thing about basketball was shooting the ball, he was excited to go and play in a tournament and all the players in the team were now his friends.

When asked how often he practises his shooting he simply said, "heaps".

The 47 Special Olympics Rotorua athletes will compete alongside 1300 others from 42 Special Olympics clubs and three schools.

Special Olympics Rotorua sports co-ordinator Stella McLeod said: "Twenty-one of our athletes have attended one or more previous Games and 26 athletes will be competing for the first time.

"There's a wide age range amongst our athletes - the youngest is just 14 and the oldest is 74.

"It will be the first time we have had a team competing in indoor bowls and the first time for many years that we have a football team. We have also been very lucky this year with the support of local businesses and funding agencies helping us achieve our target to get our athletes and volunteers to the National Summer Games."

Held every four years, the Games are New Zealand's largest event for people with intellectual disabilities and will see athletes of all ages compete in swimming, athletics, basketball, bocce, equestrian, football, golf, indoor bowls, powerlifting, and ten pin bowling. Special Olympics Rotorua athletes will take part in tenpin bowling, indoor bowls, football, basketball and swimming.