NZ 3×3 Special Olympics Team To Represent Aotearoa at World Summer Games in Berlin

The New Zealand Special Olympics basketball team have named their 3×3 squad to represent Aotearoa at the World Summer Games in Berlin next month.

Helmed by head coach Simone Kokaua, the squad includes Nathan Winkelman, Laura Montgomery, Hayden Wilson, Reuben Tearle and Jazmyn McGregor.

The Special Olympics World Summer Games celebrates diverse athletes with intellectual disabilities, with over 7,000 athletes expected to attend from 190 countries – with 3×3 among 26 different sports on offer. The 16th edition of the Games is being held in Germany for the first time, running over eight days from 17-25 June.

The 3×3 basketball squad is part of a 39-strong squad travelling from New Zealand for the games, with players from Southland to Auckland who will compete across nine different disciplines as diverse as Athletics, Golf, Swimming and more. They will be assisted by 22 coaches and support staff.

What make this 3×3 squad truly unique is they will compete as a unified team for the first time, meaning that players both with and without intellectual disabilities will play together on the same team; Tearle and McGregor joining as the team’s unified partners.

Coach Kokaua says that unified teams are the future of Special Olympics and the true embodiment of inclusion.

“In most cases we talk about inclusion, when our athletes are allowed to compete into everyone else’s world, but we think that real inclusion is when we include the outside world into our world.”

Coach Kokaua describes Canterbury’s 6’6” Winkelman as ‘the tall timber of the team’ while Hutt Valley’s Montgomery ‘shoots like Steph Curry’ and Manawatū’s Wilson has great skills driving to the hoop.

“Their skills will be complimented by their unified partners in Jazmyn and Reuben, who are both valued members of our team and have a beautiful manner of guiding our Special Olympics athletes to improve their skills and build confidence in each other.”

Winkelman describes Stephen Curry as his favourite player and says that rebounding is one the main skills he brings to his team.

“I’ve been playing basketball for six years, I got into it from watching it on tv and seeing my brother playing; but I started to play it when the coach said ‘we need a tall person’,” says Winkelman.

“It’s been like a dream for me to play for Special Olympics Canterbury and to represent New Zealand, and playing with the unified players has been good because you get to learn different skills from them as well. It means playing with people that might have different skills to your skillset.

“I’ve heard from the coaches that it’s going to be loud, there’s going to be lots of music playing and yelling – but it’ll be a great experience, it’s outdoors but covered and it’s a different experience to the 5 on 5 that I usually play. I’m really excited to represent my country.”

The New Zealand delegation leaves for Germany on 7 June for an acclimatisation camp and the host city programme near Munich, before travelling to Berlin on 15 June ahead of the opening ceremony.


Special Olympics Basketball Team for Berlin (2023)

Nathan Winkelman, Special Olympics North Canterbury

Laura Montgomery, Special Olympics Hutt Valley

Hayden Wilson, Special Olympics Manawatū

Reuben Tearle, Franklin Basketball / Counties Special Olympics club

Jazmyn McGregor, Franklin Basketball / Counties Special Olympics club

Head coach – Simone Kokaua, Waikato

3×3 coach – Wi Te Pou, Counties