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21 August 2015

After over 30 years involvement in the Special Olympics movement, Lyn Ryan is showing no signs of slowing down after returning from the 2015 Los Angeles Special Olympics as the New Zealand Bocce coach.

Starting off as a parent helper, Lyn's dedication to Special Olympics sport has seen her take on a variety of voluntary roles before becoming the head coach of the New Zealand Bocce team - a ball sport similar to Petanque.

We caught up with Lyn to find out more about the 2015 Los Angeles Special Olympics and her life involvement in intellectual disabled sports.

How did you get involved in coaching with the Special Olympics?I have been involved for just over 30 years. I have a daughter and two sons with disability. When my daughter was eight I started coaching swimming because that had been my sport. So I joined in and started working with the swim team and then became treasurer. Special Olympics is a lifestyle for us. We only have a few weekends of the year free because the rest of the year is taken up with Special Olympics events.

What was the experience like at the 2015 Special Olympics in LA?It was awesome, the Games themselves were great. You had all these people around talking different languages and it was great to watch the Special Olympics athletes interact with other athletes from around the world. The Games were an opportunity for broader competition for the athletes.

Was it a step up for the NZ athletes?Yes it was, but our athletes were extremely well prepared. We found that people were using local rules and not the rules in the rule book. That was difficult for some competitors to adapt to, but our team was well skilled up in the rules and knew what to expect. The courts were similar to here which helped and the experience of playing against other people they have not encountered before was a good experience.

Can you tell us about Monique McEwan's special gold medal winning moment?Monique had just lost to a girl from Suriname but because they both had one loss, they had to play off for gold. The girl from Suriname thought it was all done and dusted and disappeared from the arena with her coach. I looked at Monique and said do you want to win the gold medal by default or would you rather play? She said I would rather play! Monique waited an hour for her opponent to get back to the venue. They had rushed over and weren't in a state to play, so we waited another 10 minutes for her to catch her breath then played. In the end Monique came out with the gold medal and a lot of prestige.

What did it mean to the athletes to compete in the Games and take part in the ceremonies?It meant a huge amount. Trevor, one of my athletes, kept saying "I never thought I would ever get to go to one of these and I've got two medals!". Because of the sportsmanship Monique displayed in the gold medal match, she represented New Zealand on the red carpet at the closing ceremony. It meant a lot to her, she was really chuffed.

Will you continue your involvement with the Special Olympics?It's a lifestyle, my sons are heavily involved. They are involved in aquatics, basketball, skiing, bocce, football, golf. They do 6 or 7 different sports, so it really is a lifestyle for us. My husband works for Special Olympics NZ, his involvement started out when I had more children and he stepped into the committee locally. He went from the committee to being the regional sports coordinator and now the Manager of sports operations at Special Olympics New Zealand. Tomorrow is my day off work and I'm off to Hawkes Bay for a schools Bocce event.

Find out more about Special Olympics New Zealand at

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