Ready for the Special Olympics

Cambridge’s Christina Crawford, right, pictured with fellow competitor and good friend Matthew Slone, are part of the country’s biggest sporting event – the Special Olympics in Hamilton. More than 1400 athletes and coaches and 600 volunteers will be part of the national summer event. The games involve 10 sports across eight venues and swimmers Christina and Matthew will both be at Waterworld competing in the pool.

With today being the opening of the Special Olympics games, competitors from all over New Zealand are preparing to compete.

One of these competitors is Christina Crawford.

Christina is 54 years old and has Williams Syndrome, a genetic disorder which is characterised by growth disorders before and after birth, but this has never stopped her.

She’s only new to swimming, she only started about three years ago, but already she has won lots of awards in local games.

One of Christina’s best friend’s Matthew Slone, who also has Williams Syndrome, is on the team, but has been swimming for a lot longer – 20 years! He’s won bronze, silver and gold awards in Special Olympics games and has even travelled over to the United States to swim.

Christina, Matthew and the rest of their team get together to train every Sunday at Waterworld in Te Rapa, and Christina trains additionally on Thursdays at the Cambridge pools.

The games’ opening ceremony is happening today, and Christina and Matthew will be taking part in the Flame of Hope, which is starting at the Hamilton Police Station in the CBD, where it will progress to Garden Place, over the Claudelands Bridge, ending at Claudelands Event Centre. The swimming events are taking place from Friday to Monday at Waterworld, with the closing ceremony taking place on Monday afternoon.

Christina lives in Leamington, where she lives an independent lifestyle with her cat Tinker. Her younger sister, Trish is her caretaker, and visits her a couple of times a week.

The Williams Syndrome community in New Zealand is growing, with about 150 people attending a biyearly camp designed just for people with Williams Syndrome.

However, when Christina was young Williams Syndrome was not as well known. Testing for the genetic disorder is easy now, but Christina had to wait until she was two years old to get her diagnosis.

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