Paralympics New Zealand celebrates 50th Anniversary
This evening Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) will mark its 50th Anniversary as the National Paralympic Committee for New Zealand. During the event PNZ will announce plans to officially recognise and celebrate the achievements of New Zealand’s 209 Paralympians since Tel Aviv 1968 during the lead-up to Tokyo 2020 in just two years. New Zealand has now competed at 23 Paralympic Games and won 221 medals.
The announcement will be shared as 160 guests gather together for PNZ’s annual Adecco New Zealand Prime Minister’s Dinner, including Paralympic representatives from all five decades and Tokyo 2020 hopefuls. New Zealand Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern, remarked during her keynote address just how much pride she has in New Zealand’s Paralympians. She applauded plans to celebrate their exceptional sporting achievements and noted the profound impact they continue to have on societal perceptions of disability.
PNZ plans to stage a series of 12 community events around the country, within the communities that have so openly supported their Paralympic heroes over the past 50 years. Each of the 209 Paralympians, or family members if they have passed away or cannot travel, will be numbered and officially recognised by the Paralympic Movement. The project has been made possible thanks to funding and support from the Lotto Environment & Heritage Committee and New Zealand Chambers of Commerce, both in attendance.
Dr. Selwyn Maister (Chairman, Paralympics New Zealand and Olympian number 236) said: “It’s an enormous honour to represent your country. Next month will mark exactly 50 years since the first team represented New Zealand at Tel Aviv 1968. To be able to announce plans to officially recognise our 209 Paralympians will be poignant for those many people involved in Para sport over the past five decades.”
Mike Davies (Managing Director, Adecco New Zealand) said: “It has been an absolute privilege for Adecco to be able to support this amazing organisation for the past ten years. These 209 athletes and those that will follow them have and will, continue to contribute a massive amount not only to the sport but the makeup of this country, particularly changing how Kiwi’s see disability and diversity.
He continued: “We are constantly amazed and in admiration of Paralympics New Zealand, the organisation and those people that are part of it.”
On the evening of Saturday 13 April 1968, the New Zealand Federation of Paraplegic and Physically Disabled Associations was formed. Having a national body, today known as Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ), meant that New Zealand was for the first time able to send Para athletes to a Paralympic Games.
In November 1968, a team of 16 travelled to Israel, with Paralympian Eve Rimmer bringing home 4 medals from the Tel Aviv 1968 Paralympic Games – a gold, two silver and a bronze. New Zealand has now competed and medalled at 12 consecutive summer Paralympic Games. Most recently, 12 medallists won a combined total of 21 medals at Rio 2016, finishing first in the world for medals won per capita and 13th in the world for overall medals. Over 2.2 million kiwis tuned in to the live broadcast on TVNZ and Attitude.
New Zealand’s most decorated Paralympian, 15x medallist Sophie Pascoe (Rio 2016, London 2012, Beijing 2008), gave an official address. In it, she warmly acknowledged the presence of Wendy Gibb and Julie Quilty, daughters of late Paralympian Eve Rimmer (Arnhem 1980, Toronto 1976, Heidelberg 1972, Tel Aviv 1968). Rimmer’s first gold and silver medals were specially flown up from the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame in Dunedin for a heritage display also featuring the Tel Aviv 1968 team flag, photo and first uniform.
Pascoe, who had her own gold medals from Rio 2016 with her, said: “It was an amazing moment to win my 15th medal at Rio 2016 and surpass the record of 14 that Eve Rimmer had set by 1980. She was such a pioneer and it’s because of our early Paralympians that we have the respect we have today. I never got to meet her so meeting her family and seeing 1968 gold and silver medals was really special.”
Also in 1980, New Zealand made its debut at the Geilo 1980 Paralympic Winter Games in Norway. Four years on at Innsbruck 1984 the first medals were won, with Paralympians Vivienne Martin (now Gapes), Christopher Orr and Mark Edwards taking five and Martin winning New Zealand’s first Paralympic winter gold medal. New Zealand has now competed at 11 consecutive Paralympic Winter Games and medalled in all but two. In March 2018, a team competed at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, with Para skier Adam Hall winning a gold and a bronze and sit skier Corey Peters winning a bronze.
Adam Hall and Vivienne Martin were reunited tonight, after meeting for the first time only back in March, when Hall returned triumphant from PyeongChang 2018. He said: “New Zealand has such a rich and successful history in Para sport and it will be an honour to be one of the 209 Paralympians being recognised over the next two years. We are a proud sporting nation and very proud New Zealand Paralympians.”
Paralympians attending the event will include:
- Roly Crichton - Para swimming gold, silver and bronze multi-medallist, and now long-time coach to Sophie Pascoe. Roly won medals at both the Stoke Mandeville 1984 and Seoul 1988 Paralympic Games.
- Rachael Battersby (now Henderson) - triple gold medallist at Salt Lake 2002 Paralympic Winter Games. A Para alpine skier who competed at both Nagano 1998 and Salt Lake City 2002 Paralympic Winter Games.
- Dan Buckingham – gold medallist and captain of the Wheel Blacks, the Wheelchair rugby team, at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games.
- Kate Horan - won a stunning silver medal at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games in Para athletics. Kate switched to Para cycling and achieved a 4th place at Rio 2016. Most recently she won silver at the 2018 UCI Para Cycling Track World Championships.
- Cameron Leslie - Para swimmer and Wheel Black. He is the world record holder and three-time Paralympic gold medallist in the Men's Individual Medley 150m SM4 across Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016.
- Jessica Hamill - has competed in Para athletics including shotput, discus and javelin since the age of 15. In 2016 she represented New Zealand at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games winning a bronze medal in the shotput.
- Scott Martlew - Para canoeist who debuted in Rio 2016. He recently won his first World Championship medal, taking silver in the Men’s 200m KL2 at the Canoe Sprint World Championships in Portugal.
Para athletes and Tokyo 2020 hopefuls attending the event will include:
- Chris Arbuthnott - Para Swimmer who competed in the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Team. He put in a series of great performances to build towards Tokyo 2020.
- Amanda Lowry – competed in her first international competition in August this year at the Pan Pacific Para Swimming Championships where she produced times that could see her taking on the best in the world in the future. She is also a board member of Parafed Bay of Plenty (a regional disability sport organisation).
- Nicole Murray won her first international medal – a silver - earlier this year at the UCI Para Cycling Track World Championships. She is a Paralympic hopeful for Tokyo 2020.
PNZ will proudly share this special occasion with five of the original founding members that created the New Zealand Federation of Paraplegic and Physically Disabled Associations 50 years ago. The founding members are regional disability sport organisations including Parafed Auckland, Parafed Bay of Plenty, Parafed Canterbury, Parafed Otago, Parafed Waikato and Parafed Wellington.