Gordon Llewellyn is a name you have probably never heard off but he played a pivotal role in the birth of the Special Olympics movement in New Zealand.
In 1983, he and three other Hutt athletes – Colin Bailey, Peter Spijkerman and Brent Busby – made history when they attended the Summer Special Olympics in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The trip was organised by Grant Quinn, who later said Gordon Llewellyn proved the perfect poster boy for the Special Olympics movement in New Zealand.
Llewellyn was a larger than life character with a bold personality and a fascination with the TV character Magnum PI.
Years later Quinn recalled the flight over and an announcement that came over the intercom.
"This is your captain speaking … I have a very special passenger with me in the cockpit. His name is Gordon Llewellyn from New Zealand."
Llewellyn quickly took over the microphone and proceeded to entertain the whole plane.
"Next minute Gordon was asking, or should I say demanding, that everybody on board give the team a rousing three cheers to wish the team a successful time in Baton Rouge," recalled Quinn.
The team performed well at the Olympics and athletes returned home heroes, proudly wearing their medals for weeks to make sure nobody missed their success.
Llewellyn died in August 2014 and Quinn gave the eulogy. He told mourners that Llewellyn and the other three Hutt swimmers had changed the public's perception of the intellectually disabled.
They had helped win mainstream acceptance and played a key role in promoting an organisation that now had more than 7000 active members.
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