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News posted on Thursday 20th April, 2023

12 Kiwi athletes to shine on the world stage at 2023 Virtus Global Games

New Zealand swimmers Tate Pichon and Lance Dustow posing together after winning bronze and silver in the Men’s 400m freestyle

Key points:

  • 12 New Zealanders will compete at the 6th edition of the 2023 Virtus Global Games.
  • The Virtus Global Games will take place 2-10 June 2023 in Vichy, France.
  • Virtus is the International Federation for athletes with intellectual impairment.
  • The 12 New Zealand athletes, who come from all over NZ, will compete in athletics (1), swimming (10), and table tennis (1).

12 Kiwi athletes with intellectual impairment are to compete at the 2023 Virtus Global Games. The Games take place in Vichy, France, from 2-10 June 2023. The athletes will represent New Zealand proudly across three sports: athletics, swimming and table tennis.

More on how to follow and support the Kiwis at the Global Games.

Swimmer Lance Dustow will be attending the Virtus Global Games for the first time. Lance, who is from Hawkes Bay, attests that the Virtus Games are important to the athletes’ sporting development saying:

“They show me and everyone else to reach for the stars.” 

Lance looks forward to cheering on his teammates, meeting new people, and competing against the best swimmers in his II-3 classification from around the world: 

“It means so much to me, and I want to thank PNZ, Swimming New Zealand, and Cam (Leslie) for believing in my teammates and me.”

Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) has appointed Helen Brookes as Head of Delegation (HOD). Helen brings a wealth of experience through her involvement with Special Olympics for over 15 years, mainly in coaching and sports coordination roles. She was the Head of Delegation for the New Zealand delegation that attended the Virtus Oceania Asia Games 2022 in Brisbane and will bring this experience at the multi-sport event to the Virtus Global Games.

Helen explains why she is passionate about Virtus:

“I have long believed that our athletes with intellectual impairments are capable of achieving to a much higher level, and the Virtus Global Games is their chance to prove that. At the Virtus OA Games, I witnessed the highs, the lows and ultimately, the comradeship that comes with being a part of a truly competitive team. Since then, I know our athletes have been training even harder, and I look forward to celebrating their successes as a team.”

The Virtus Global Games is the largest elite sporting event in the world for athletes with intellectual impairments. The New Zealand delegation will compete with over 1000 athletes worldwide, representing 80 nations. The Virtus Global Games stand as a critical event for some athletes in the II-1 category on the road to the Paralympic Games.

Three of the athletes on the team will be representing New Zealand for the first time overseas: Melissa Donoghue, Joseph Blake and Genevieve Watson. The Virtus Global Games opens up an elite pathway for athletes with intellectual impairments who have not had such sporting developmental opportunities before.

Helen Brookes sees a great future for Virtus:

“Whilst Virtus is still relatively small in New Zealand, these games will help us raise the profile showing other athletes back home what opportunities they can work towards.”

The full New Zealand delegation

Para Sport


Eligibility Class



Josh Lush


Cairns, Australia


Joseph Blake


Hamilton, Hamilton Aquatics


Jack Bugler


Blenheim, Blenheim Swimming Club


Bailey Conlon


Rotorua, Te Arawa Swimming Club


Melissa Donoghue


Hamilton, Hamilton Aquatics


Lance Dustow


Hawkes Bay, Greendale Swimming Club


Tate Pichon


Auckland, Mt Eden Swimming Club


Finn Russ


Nelson, Nelson South Swimming Club


Rylee Sayer


Te Aroha, Matamata Swimming Club


Genevieve Watson


Christchurch, North Canterbury Swimming Club


Luka Willems


Christchurch, Wharenui Swim Club

Table Tennis

Alfie Linn


Mapua, Nelson Table Tennis Club

What is Virtus?

Virtus is the global governing organisation for elite athletes with intellectual impairment. Formerly known as INAS, Virtus was formed in 1986 and continues to advocate for inclusion in sports, providing athletes with elite pathways to pursue their athletic goals.

Virtus’ vision is to shape “an inclusive world for people with an intellectual impairment.” The 2023 Global Games provide athletes with an intellectual impairment an opportunity to develop in elite sports.

The three eligible groups for Virtus Competitions are:

  • II1 (Intellectual Impairment)
  • II2 (Significant Intellectual Impairment)
  • II3 (Autism)

2023 is the first time II3 classified athletes can compete at the Virtus Games with full medal status.

Paralympics New Zealand is the affiliated national member organisation for Virtus in New Zealand, overseeing the elite sporting pathways and developmental opportunities for eligible athletes. Virtus seeks to strengthen its involvement with the Paralympic movement by holding the Global Games every four years in the year preceding the Paralympic Games.

More about Virtus

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