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Making History in Vichy: Team NZ Represent at Virtus Global Games

Virtus Global Games Wrap-up

Kiwi swimmers at the Virtus Global Games have stood up to the toughest challenge of their sporting careers while competing in Vichy France over the past week – creating history for New Zealand.

Boasting our biggest ever swim team at the Global Games – which is the known around the world as the largest event for athletes with an intellectual impairment – the 10 swimmers went against the odds to break New Zealand records, achieve final appearances, and personal bests.

New Zealand firsts at the Global Games also included having male and female representation in the II2 (S18 in NZ) and II3 (S19) categories, and finalists in the II1/II2/II3 categories (S14/S18/S19). At the last Global Games in 2019 NZ had three swimmers, all competing in the II1 category.

For majority of the team it was their inaugural long haul flight, coupled with competing outdoors in temperatures nearing 40 degrees and challenging logistics on the ground. However, this didn’t dampen the team’s efforts in the water.

Team coaches Glen Findlay (Nelson South) and Henk Greupink (Te Arawa) agreed the conditions would have definitely affected performances but the team spirit was high throughout.

Findlay explained,

“The event had incredible depth and the standard was noticeably higher than the Oceania Asia Games we attended in Brisbane last November. No doubt our camps leading in have been important – long days with no real down time between sessions due to logistics have put the team under real pressure.
“Team sprit has been great and the way the team have responded to the conditions is positive.”

Greupink noted the high standards of competing nations like Brazil who broke World Records in individual and relay events.

A standout for the coaches was Hamilton Aquatics’ Joseph Blake, recording a 100 per cent personal best ratio, despite the conditions, and marking himself as one with potential going forward. Another to impress was Rylee Sayer (Matamata) who broke two NZ Open Para Records on the final day – 200 breaststroke and 400 freestyle.

Alongside Blake and Sayer, the coaches noted the finalist performances of Finn Russ (Nelson South), Lance Dustow (Greendale), Gen Watson (North Canterbury), and Melissa Donoghue (Hamilton) – who all went faster than their heat swims. Special mention also went to Jack Bugler (Blenheim) who was four seconds off his 1500 freestyle personal best but finished inside the top 12 for II1.

Team manager Robyn Conlon (Te Arawa) acknowledged the challenges the team faced but, as all good athletes and managers do, they made plans and got on with it.

“There is mingling, cheering, and celebration throughout every day,” she commented.
“The bus and transport situation, while challenging, has become part of our routine. We know the drill, we know our bus drivers, and our French has now extended.”

Conlon added the team’s ability to keep moving and looking ahead has been admirable.

“Our athletes hop on with smiles, greet athletes from all over the world and hop off – some with a trade of a pin, key ring or some small memento of the new friendship made.
“Camaraderie is strong and there is a real sense of whanau as darkness settles and everyone drifts off to dreamland – ready to start a new day, create magical memories, and compete with some of the best in the world.”

The New Zealand team who competed at the Global Games included:

Joseph Blake

Hamilton Aquatics

Melissa Donoghue

Hamilton Aquatics

Jack Buglar

Blenheim Swimming Club

Lance Dustow

Greendale Swimming Club

Finn Russ

Nelson South Swimming Club

Rylee Sayer

Matamata Swimming Club

Luka Willems

Wharenui Swimming Club

Bailey Conlon

Te Arawa Swimming

Tate Pichon

Mt Eden Swimming Club

Genevieve Watson

North Canterbury Swimming Club

Support Staff

Henk Greupink

Te Arawa Swimming

Robyn Conlon

Te Arawa Swimming

Glen Findlay

Nelson South Swimming Club

Susan O'Brien

Matamata Swimming Club

Angelique van der Veldon

Wharenui Swimming Club


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