World Games Wrap

09 Jul 2023

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Click here for full results for Team Australia.
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The Special Olympics World Games Berlin .2023 has wrapped up and Team Australia are back home celebrating their success with family, friends and fans.

The billboard above is what greeted our champions when they finally arrived on home soil at Brisbane Airport last month. It features Natascha Tennent (golf, QLD), Stuart Gorton (bocce, QLD) and Andrew Robbins (bocce, VIC) who all brought home medals.  

What a Games!

The Special Olympics World Games, held in Berlin from 17-25 June 2023, was the largest and most inclusive sporting event on the planet this year with 7,000 athletes from 190 delegations competing across 26 sports. 

The 64 athletes of Team Australia, who were supported by 28 volunteer officials, brought home 63 medals across 9 sports: athletics, basketball, bocce, bowling (tenpin), equestrian, golf, gymnastics, swimming and tennis.

The youngest member of Team Australia was Oliver King from Queensland. At just 15-years-old, Oliver became Special Olympics Australia’s youngest gold medallist – ever! Oliver won the top prize in equestrian for English working trails. He also picked up a bronze medal in dressage.

While our gymnastics team had a long wait to start competition, they finished with finesse and jingled all the way home after winning the most medals for Team Australia – a total of 21 medals with six gold!

Our bocce team took the prize for being the first Australian team to win a medal when they beat the home-side, Germany to win bronze in the Teams event.

The bowling team came in with a strike when they became the first Australians to stand on the podium to have their medals presented – a bronze medal, also in the Teams event. 

Over the course of nine days, Team Australia produced one triple gold medallist, Chris Bunton (NSW) in gymnastics and three dual gold medallists who made their World Games debut: Isabella Parisi (QLD) in equestrian, Robert Goodrem (VIC) in bowling and Sophie Nichols (VIC) in gymnastics.

Team Australia Medals and Awards

63 medals and 43 place ribbons (4-8).

15 Gold
22 Silver
26 Bronze

Team Australia By Sport (click for your sport)

Athletics | 2 Gold, 2 Silver, 5 Bronze

At the Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023, our Aussie athletics team were lightning on the track, dynamite on the field and fun off the field. Of course, it’s always going to be entertaining when team officials get around in a giant inflatable koala costume! 

After a wet start to competition, the athletics team came home strong with 2 gold, 2 silver and 5 bronze medals.

Chelsea Haag-Witherden (VIC) won our first gold medal in athletics, when she out-threw the competition in shot put with a throw of 7.40 metres.

Next it was Bray Aquino (NSW) who won gold in the blue-ribbon event – the men’s 100m – in a smashing 12.84 seconds. Bray says that winning gold on the track was thanks to “sheer adrenaline” and it has made him feel proud. He says, “I can now puff my chest out for a bit.”

Another great performance on the track came from Harry Mezger (VIC) in the 10,000-metre event which he ran in 40.15 minutes, just 56 seconds behind Team Germany who grabbed silver in a very tight race.

After finishing the 10,000-metre event Harry said, “I ran a great race and did my best. I paced myself well, but I just ran out of legs at the end. I hope I didn’t give you all a heart attack.”

Harry backed up again the next day to win another bronze medal in the 3,000 metres.

Head Coach for Athletics, Scott Shearer said, “What a Games we have had. I am blessed to have taken this journey with the team, watching them make new friends and achieving life goals.”

After the long journey home, Bray Aquino (NSW) and Lisa Weingartner (NSW) proved the stamina of the athletics team when they appeared on Channel 7’s Weekend Sunrise to share their World Games experience.

The pair were in the studio at 7.30am where they sat on the couch to tell Edwina Bartholomew and Matt Dorran some of their Games highlights, including Bray’s gold medal in the 100m sprint and Lisa’s role as sign bearer at the Closing Ceremony. They even had their own fan clubs cheering them on – one from the back of the Sunrise studio and the other outside in Martin Place. Watch Bray and Lisa shine on Weekend Sunrise here

They also did a bit of pin-trading with hosts Matt Doran and an enthusiastic Edwina Bartholomew who kicked off her shoes to run and grab some pins that she had collected at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016. Watch Edwina and Matt’s excited response here

Basketball | 2 Bronze

At the Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023 the largest Australian sports team was basketball with 20 athletes and 6 officials.

Basketballer, Juliet Liddy (NSW) kicked off the basketball dominance by leading Team Australia into the Opening Ceremony of the Games at Olympiastadion in Berlin. 

Then, after some fierce competition in front of packed crowds, it was bronze all around for our Aussie basketballers who placed third in the Traditional Men’s and Traditional Women’s competitions at Messe.

They were loud, fast and furious!

Following their performances, Head Coach for the Australian Men’s side, Mitchell Roberts (WA) said, “The basketball teams played phenomenally against some tough competition to come away with the bronze.”

Bocce | 2 Gold, 1 Silver, 1 Bronze

The bocce team of four were the most experienced Australian sports team at the World Games. It was the second World Games for Vicki Robbins (VIC), Andrew Robbins (VIC) and Stuart Gorton (QLD) and the debut Games for Georgianna Mouratidis (VIC), and they were an awesome team.

The four won Australia's first medal when they claimed the bronze medal in the teams event at the bocce hall which was energetic and packed with spectators.

So everyone returned home with a medal and Andrew Robbins achieved his dream 

“The competition was very, very tough but it’s been a privilege to play for Australia alongside my wife Vicki. It’s the first time we’ve played at the World Games together and it's been my dream to win a medal together and we won bronze in Teams.”

Flashing his trademark smile, Andrew said, “The highlight of the World Games in Berlin has been making new friends and sharing this wonderful experience with my wife.”

Jeffrey Stewart, Head Coach for Bocce summed up the Games by saying, "We were all very proud of the ability and sportsmanship of the bocce team and we had great support from the other teams. We are very proud of all the athletes in every sport. Team Australia is truly one big team of beautiful people." 

Bowling (Tenpin) |­ 2 Gold, 2 Bronze

Our four Aussie bowlers did themselves proud with a solid performance at the Special Olympics World Games in Berlin. Every one of them has returned home with a medal!

Although the bocce team were the first team to secure a medal for Australia, the bowlers were the first Australian team to stand on the podium and receive their award – a bronze medal in the Teams event went to Robert Goodrem (VIC), Michael Wheatley (NSW), Angela Fowler (NSW) and Brooke Greenhalgh (VIC).

It didn’t take long until more medals were on the way to our bowling team with a bronze in the Women’s Doubles, a gold in the Men’s Doubles and a gold in the Men’s Singles for Robert Goodrem (VIC) making him one of the four dual gold medallists of the Games for Australia.

Special Olympics Australia spoke to Head Coach, Justin Lopes midway through the competition and he said, "I am thrilled with the results so far.”

“The gold medal in the men’s doubles resulted from a very tight competition. Michael and Robert did extremely well with both bowling above their average, so it was a well-deserved victory. Angela and Brooke faced some extremely tough competition in the Women’s Doubles but performed well and bowled above their average to win the bronze medal,” Justin said.

He also added: “I am so pleased for the athletes as they have excelled on the lanes, but even more than that, their attitude has been 120% brilliant all the time and I am very proud of them.”

Equestrian | 4 Gold, 3 Silver, 4 Bronze

Our equestrian team of four riders included two of the youngest members of Team Australia – 15 year-old Oliver King (QLD) and 16 year-old Karen Messmer (QLD).

Despite their young age, they achieved beyond their years with each of them returning home from the Special Olympics World Games with at least two medals.

That’s a fantastic achievement given they were all competing at the World Games for the first time and they had to do so on borrowed horses. Yes, that’s right! Each rider had to ride a local horse they had never met before, something that is difficult for even the most experienced riders.

Isabella Parisi (QLD) rode Nike, Karen Messmer (QLD) and Oliver King (QLD) both rode Fanny, and Jaye Barnesby-Buie (QLD) rode Querida-Quamira.

Fun fact: Karen and Oliver, the two youngest members of Team Australia returned home with a full set of medals each: gold, silver and bronze!

Golf | 1 Gold, 1 Silver, 4 Bronze

After a wet start at Bad Saarow Golf Course, it rained medals for Australia on the final day of play.

On a very hot day in Berlin, all six golfers representing Team Australia secured a medal, including a gold medal for 16-year-old Natascha Tennent (QLD) who won the Individual Stroke Play (18-hole) competition – an astounding 30 strokes ahead of her nearest competitor!

Natascha is currently ranked as Australia's #1 female golfer and this victory has catapulted her to #2 in the World Ranking for Golfers with Disability (WR4GD).

We surprised Natascha as she returned home by splashing her winner’s smile across our Welcome Home billboard made possible by our generous friends at Brisbane Airport Corporation.

The electronic display also featured Aussie bocce medallists Stuart Gorton (QLD) and Andrew Robbins (VIC).

Of her new-found fame, Natascha said, “Someone even came up and asked if it was me on the billboard. When I said yes, they applauded!”

Gymnastics | 6 Gold, 6 Silver, 9 Bronze

Our gymnastics team jingled all the way home from Berlin after winning the most medals for Australia at the Special Olympics World Games – 21 medals across the team of six!

Chris Bunton (NSW) was our most gifted gymnast, as well as the highest performing Australian medallist winning a total of seven medals: three gold for pomell, rings, high bar and four silver for vault, floor, parallel bars and all-around performance.

Chris competed in the highest division and was the veteran of the squad. This was his third World Games having previously competed at the Special Olympics World Games in Shanghai 2007 and Athens 2011.

Natalie Johnston, Gymnastics Head Coach guided the gymnastics team to glory at her third World Games and she had a message for the team before departing Berlin.

Natalie said. “I couldn’t be prouder of all of you – years of training truly paid off in Berlin. Not only for the awards you won, but for the message you’ve sent to all young people with disability. The fact that you are all bringing home medals demonstrates the beauty and accessibility of gymnastics.”

To wrap up a great competition where she won one silver and two bronze medals, gymnast and World Games debutante, Lauren Menzies shared this inspiring message: “Representing Australia has been a lifelong dream and I would say to anyone wanting to start gymnastics, diagnosis or no diagnosis, you can do anything you put your mind to…you just need to start.”

Swimming | 6 Silver

It was all silver linings in the pool for Australia at the Special Olympics World Games in Berlin with the squad of eight returning home with six silver medals, including Justin Williams whose played the long game.

In 2003, Justin competed at his first Special Olympics World Games in Ireland where he won gold in the 4x200m freestyle relay and celebrated with the founder of Special Olympics, Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

Twenty years later at his second World Games in Berlin, Justin won another medal in the pool – a silver medal in the 50m butterfly! It was Australia's first swimming medal at this year’s Games.

Justin has been an athlete with Special Olympics Australia for 35 years and he has recently become a qualified swim coach. Every Sunday, he coaches Special Olympics Australia athletes in his hometown in Victoria. Wow, what a career!

At the end of the Games, Craig Tobin, Swimming Head Coach said, "The team swam so well in all the races with almost all doing personal best times in the  heats then improving for the finals."

Tennis | 1 Silver

Alex Baker (QLD) and Rebecca Allison (QLD) played at their best at the Special Olympics World Games in Berlin and bagged a silver medal in the Mixed Doubles event.

According to Greg Bowes, Tennis Head Coach, “The greatest achievement for the two tennis aces was the fun they had making awesome new friends from across the world, including Chinese tennis player Li Na who won the Australian Open in 2014.”

Li Na played at the Special Olympics World Games in the Unified Experience. The Unified Experience is where people with intellectual disability and people without disability play together.

Even before competition got underway, Alex had a moment in the spotlight when he was interviewed for the Postdamer Daily Mirror with the article opening with a quote from Alex, “I’ve been working on this for 16 years!”  

One of the questions that Alex was asked was: What does it mean to you to be part of the Special Olympics World Games?

He answered, “It means I have officially reached the highest level in tennis. At these World Games, I will be able to measure myself against the best athletes with an intellectual disability in the world, and together we can create memories.”

Media Enquiries in Australia

r reach out to the Icon Agency team:

Jaclyn Dargue
+61 438 504 419

Remanika Chaudhry
+61 413 520 619

Media Enquiries in Berlin

Sharon Nixon
+61 406 821 461