A Whanganui Special Olympian has been selected among nine New Zealanders with intellectual disabilities to participate in an athlete leadership programme.
Catherine Boyle is a seasoned Special Olympics athlete, having trained and competed with Special Olympics Wanganui for 23 years. Over that time she has tried her hand at a number of sports but is currently competing in swimming, indoor bowls and bocce.
She has competed both nationally and internationally - at six National Summer Games and at the World Summer Games in Dublin in 2003.
"I have met lots of friends through Special Olympics and have travelled to lots of tournaments all over New Zealand," Ms Boyle said. "I've also become a better person - and I'm not as scared of talking to other people now."
The programme is run by Special Olympics New Zealand and empowers athletes to share their stories and inspire others with an intellectual disability, programme manager Julia Sanson said.
"Known as Global Messengers they are instrumental in helping grow the awareness and understanding of Special Olympics and to communicate the powerful declarations of hope, acceptance, dignity and courage of Special Olympics athletes around the world."
As a Global Messenger, Ms Boyle is looking forward to returning the favour to Special Olympics.
"I would like to talk with other people and give back to Special Olympics for all the help they have given me."
To date 63 athletes have graduated as Global Messengers and have gone on to represent Special Olympics around New Zealand and abroad.
The 2017 class of Global Messengers will begin their athlete leadership training early next year at the first of a series of workshops. These will teach public speaking, media liaison, presentation skills, speech writing, goal-setting and leadership.