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Brend Hotels

A Heroes’ Welcome Home

Last night we celebrated the outstanding achievements of our very own Special Olympians, Daniel Weston SOGB and Fiona Lane SOGB. The North Devon athletes competed in Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 as part of the Special Olympics Great Britain team and brought home medals in cycling and tennis.

Whilst congratulating Daniel and Fiona, we’d like to help raise awareness of the multi-sport event for athletes and sportsmen and women with intellectual disabilities (IQ under 75) and encourage new talent, coaches and trainers to come forward and be inspired.

How the Special Olympics began

Special Olympics is an International Organisation which was founded 50 years ago by Eunice Shriver, who wanted an organisation for her sister who was mentally handicapped. It started in her back garden as a group of children who had races and games to compete against one another and rapidly expanded throughout America as an organisation to offer sport and competition to children and adults with an intellectual disability and IQ under 75. It is now active in 172 countries with 5 million athletes. The Shriver family are still very much involved and Tim Shriver was present at the recent World Games. The first group in Great Britain was founded in 1978 by a gentleman by the name of Chris Maloney, who now lives in North Devon.

How to get involved - The North Devon Special Olympics Group

Founded in 2014, the North Devon group meet at the Tarka Tennis Centre in Barnstaple on a Saturday between 1.15pm and 2.45pm and at the present time, offer training and competition in table tennis. tennis, badminton and boccia. They also support a swimming group at West Buckland School, who would welcome new members.

The group are actively looking to recruit more athletes, coaches and volunteers who would be interested in developing sports especially badminton and groups who could offer and support other sports e.g. athletics, basketball etc. There is also currently a cyclist who is in need of somebody who has time to support and develop his skills in racing.

The group is very active and compete in as many competitions as possible, often travelling quite long distances, and are usually very successful.  In the last year the team even flew up to Stirling for a weekend competition, but over the years the group has found that sport doesn’t only improve the individuals’ sports skills, but confidence, independence, social skills, coordination and also, forming friendships.

To find out more about getting involved with the North Devon Special Olympics Team, please contact Val Hanover by emailing [email protected]

Our North Devon Medal-Winning Special Olympians


Daniel has been a member of the Brend Hotels family for many years, working his way from an apprentice in our Brend Training Academy to become a valuable member of The Barnstaple Hotel kitchen team as a Commis Chef. We were proud to sponsor and support him in the World Games in LA in 2015 and then again this year. In the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, Daniel took Gold in the 25km, Silver in the 15km time trial, came 7th in the 40km race - with only seconds between 1st and 7th place! Read more about Daniel’s story here.


On leaving school, Fiona attended Petroc College and since then has become an asset to her grandparents and family by helping with day to day living and shopping for elderly residents in her Village. She enjoys sport and is very enthusiastic, especially about tennis. In recent years she has had private tennis lessons at Tarka Tennis Centre, and her play has come on Leaps and bounds. The World Games in Abu Dhabi was Fiona’s first big competition and Fiona took two 4th medals in Tennis home for Team GB!