Special Olympics: Supporters do hard yards for swimmer

Horowhenua visitor Petrus Simonis pushes his mother up the hill to Moana Pool yesterday. Photo by...
Horowhenua visitor Petrus Simonis pushes his mother up the hill to Moana Pool yesterday. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
They did it for their son and foster brother. Petronella Simonis-Todd and son Petrus Simonis displayed a Spartan determination as they mastered the Dunedin hills.

The pair, and stepdaughter Thames Haldane (20), were the support crew for foster son Orlando Karepa (17) who was competing in the Summer Games swimming.

The family live in Foxton and were supporting the Horowhenua team.

It was a costly exercise to come to Dunedin, because the family does not have much money and could not afford taxis or a rental car.

''If we took taxis we would not be able to eat,'' Petrus (37) said. The problem was that they did not realise that Dunedin had hills and they were staying at the Aaron Lodge Holiday Park in Kaikorai Valley.

It was the job of Petrus to push his mother, who is confined to a wheelchair, around the steep Dunedin streets.

It was an 11.5km return journey to the opening ceremony at the Edgar Centre and a 4km return journey from their digs to Moana Pool.

It was a difficult two days and they were exhausted at night.

''There we no buses to take us from the Edgar Centre to town,'' Petronella said.

''It took us two hours to get back from the opening ceremony.''

Petrus said that it was not easy.

''We had to stop six times,'' he said.

''We were going to hire a car but if we did we couldn't eat at all, so we decided to walk,'' Petronella said.

''When I booked they told me it was a 15-minute walk to the pool. But they didn't tell me it was up steep hills.''

It was cold when they arrived in Dunedin. They did not have warm clothes and visited an opportunity shop to buy clothes to keep warm. The family are proud of Orlando and came to Dunedin to support him.

''We are doing all this for Orlando,'' Petronella said.

''This is his first year in Special Olympics.''

But Alfred Tango and his wife Ursule, parents of competitors in the Bay of Islands team, came to the rescue yesterday and gave them a ride in their rental car.

''We saw their plight and offered them a ride,'' Ursula said.

''It blew us away when we saw what they were doing.''

The Summer Games director Aaron Joy said that ''we supply the transport for the athletes, coaches and officials.

''Families are independent and they supply transport for themselves.''

The family will be walking again today because their guardian angels from the Bay of Islands are flying home.

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