Last Tuesday, Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) marked the nineth community event as part of The Celebration Project, where the achievements of New Zealand’s 209 Paralympians since Tel Aviv 1968 were officially recognised and celebrated.
In Wellington, 18 New Zealand Paralympians, their families and friends and PNZ commercial partners came together at Government House hosted by PNZ Patron Her Excellency The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy, Governor-General of New Zealand. Together they celebrated over 50 years of Paralympic history in New Zealand acknowledging the incredible 209 Paralympians that have represented New Zealand. Since 1968 New Zealand Paralympic Teams have stunned supporters and competing nations with their determination, heart and courage and ultimately, their success. Paralympians have contributed to New Zealand Paralympic Teams success by representing Kiwis with pride and dignity and bringing home a staggering 221 medals. Through this success they have inspired Kiwis to think differently about disability.
The Paralympians are now part of a group of 103 NZ Paralympians that have received their official ‘numbered’ Paralympic pin and certificate following The Celebration Project events in Auckland (x2), Whangarei, Hamilton, Tauranga, New Plymouth, Palmerston North and Queenstown during 2019/2020.
The official Paralympic ‘number’ is a unique number that is bestowed only once a Paralympian has competed at their first Paralympic Games. Athletes are then ordered alphabetically within each Paralympic Games.
Her Excellency said: “As patron of Paralympics New Zealand, it is an honour to welcome 18 Paralympians and their supporters to Government House as part of the Celebration Project. Their achievements on the world’s sporting stage have showcased the possibilities of the human spirit, and their success is something we can all be truly proud of.”
Selwyn Maister (Chair, PNZ) said: “We were privileged to have 18 wonderful Paralympians and their families, friends and supporters, representing New Zealand Paralympic Teams from Heidelberg 1972 to Rio 2016 Paralympic Games come together in Wellington at Government House. We thank our Patron The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy for hosting, acknowledging and celebrating our Paralympians. From Paralympian number 17 Neroli Fairhall who competed in 4 Paralympic Games debuting at Heidelberg 1972; and Paralympian number 204 Greg Reid who competed in Rio 2016. These 18 Paralympians are members of a very exclusive club of just 209 New Zealanders. They will be members forever, as once a Paralympian, always a Paralympian.”
Shelley Kalivati (Paralympian #50) is well known for the 4 Paralympic medals she won at the New York and Stoke Mandeville 1984 Paralympic Games. Kalivati spoke about her sporting experiences: “Success in sport as a Paralympian gave me the drive I needed to do other things like studying Parks and Recreation Management at Lincoln University. I realised that if I really wanted something, I could do it.”
She continued: “After my accident sport helped me find my oomph in life again. I’ll be forever thankful that I got back into sport and represented my country as a Paralympian.”
PNZ will stage a further 2 community events in Dunedin and Christchurch, within two of the communities that have so passionately supported their Paralympic heroes for over 50 years. The project has been made possible thanks to funding and support from the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board, New Zealand Chambers of Commerce and Toyota New Zealand.
Prior to The Celebration Project community event, the PNZ team were at Te Papa on Sunday 15 and Monday 16 November sharing the Para Sport Pop Up with the public and local schools.
The Para Sport Pop Up is an innovative initiative that is travelling around New Zealand in the lead up to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, telling the story of New Zealand’s Paralympic history, increasing awareness of Para sport and positively influencing community perceptions of disabled people. The Para Sport Pop Up includes a variety of Para sport activities and fun ways to show your support of the New Zealand Paralympic Team!
Paralympians who attended the event included:
Born in Christchurch, Paralympic legend Neroli took up Para archery following a motorbike accident which left her paralysed from the waist down. Fairhall competed in Para athletics and Para archery at her first two Paralympic Games in Heidelberg 1972 and Arnhem 1980, but it was in Para archery that she excelled, taking gold in Arnhem in 1980. Four years later, she became the first Para athlete to also compete at the Olympics in Los Angeles. She went on to compete at two further Paralympic Games, Seoul 1988 and Sydney 2000. Neroli passed away in 2006. She was posthumously inducted into the Paralympic Hall of Fame during the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Neroli was represented by members of her family.
Heneti had her first connection with the Paralympic Movement when she spent 11 months in the world-acclaimed spinal unit at Stoke Mandeville Hospital following a motor vehicle accident. Stoke Mandeville, is the home of the Paralympic Movement. Heneti took up Para sport 10 years after her accident in New Zealand joining the Wellington Paraplegic Association, as it was known back then, and started participating in shot put and discus. But it was in the water that Heneti felt most at ease. Heneti made her Paralympic debut at the Heidelberg 1972 Paralympic Games where she competed in Para athletics and Para swimming. She won the bronze medal in the 25m Backstroke 1B. Heneti passed away in 1987. She was represented by her husband and son at Government House.
Paul is a two-time New Zealand Paralympian. He made his Paralympic debut at the Toronto 1976 Paralympic Games where he competed in Para athletics and Para swimming. Paul won a bronze medal in the 50m Breaststroke 4 event. He then qualified for the Arnhem 1980 Paralympic Games in Holland where he achieved great success claiming gold this time in the 100m Breaststroke 4. Paul and his family live in Clive, Hawkes Bay.
Kaye is a visually impaired New Zealand Paralympian who made her debut at the Arnhem 1980 Paralympic Games in Holland. Known as Kaye Firth at that time, she competed in both Para athletics and Para swimming. Kaye won a gold medal in the Pentathlon B. Kaye also competed in tandem cycling and won several marathon medals. Kaye has continued her involvement and passion for Para sport, especially Goalball and Blind cricket. Kaye now works for Blind Low Vision Kapiti.
After losing his left leg in a motorcycle accident at the age of 20, Marty has refused to let his disability slow him down. Marty is a 2-time Paralympian, the only Para athlete who has represented New Zealand at both a winter and summer Paralympic Games. He began as a Para alpine skier, competing at the Innsbruck 1984 Paralympic Winter Games. 6 years later Marty joined the team of 4 Para sailors to compete at the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games. Marty is also passionate about surfing and golf, he is a national knee boarding champion, has biked some of our toughest mountain trails and competed in the National Marathon Canoeing Championships. Marty is currently a mountain bike instructor inspiring young riders.
Shelley had a very successful Paralympic debut at the New York and Stoke Mandeville 1984 Paralympic Games. She won an impressive 4 Paralympic medals: 2 gold in the 200m and Pentathlon; and 2 silver in the 100m and slalom. She then changed sports to Wheelchair tennis, winning the C Division at the Australian Open and the Women’s Division of the New Zealand Open. She moved to Germany and competed in the European Wheelchair tennis circuit successfully, making the quarter-finals twice. Shelley has been working for NZ Police for 19 years as a dispatcher at Wellington Central Police Station. Full feature story available here.
Forty-five years ago Morice had a tractor accident in Wakefield near Nelson which resulted in him becoming a paraplegic. He competed at two Paralympic Games: Stoke Mandeville 1984 and Seoul 1988. He had the honour of being the flag bearer for the New Zealand Paralympic Team at the opening ceremony in 1988 in front of 100,000 people. Morice specialised in Para athletics long-distance wheelchair races which included finishing 4th in the first ever Paralympic marathon. Morice retired after 14 years of completive Para sports in 1991 but is still an active member of Table Tennis Nelson and coaches adaptive table tennis. It was also in this same room that 26 years ago Morice received his Queen Service Medal honour for his services to disabled sports.
Peter was born with a condition called Amniotic Band Syndrome. He was born without all four limbs. In the late 1970’s he took up outdoor lawn bowls and soon found he was pretty good at it, able to play with and against some of the best bowlers in NZ. In 1988, Peter was selected to the New Zealand Paralympic Team to compete in South Korea. His Paralympic debut was a fantastic success as he won the historical 2 Paralympic medals in Para lawn bowls for New Zealand. He won the gold medal in the Men’s Singles LB3 and the bronze medal in the Men’s Pairs LB2. Eight years later, Peter competed again at the Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Games. Peter is a founding member of NZ Disabled Lawn Bowls.
Lesli was diagnosed at the age of 14 with Stargardt’s disease, as a result, she has gradual loss of her central vision. Lesli always loved athletics and as a young girl competed at a regional level winning numerous medals for her local athletics club. Lesli made her Paralympic debut at the Seoul 1988 Paralympic Games. Her main event was the heptathlon where she was ranked 2nd in the world. However, due to low entries in her classification and she had to compete in new and separate Para athletics events. Lesli won two medals: silver in the Women’s 100m B3 and bronze in the Women’s Long Jump B3. Today Lesli works as a counsellor, workshop facilitator and conference presenter.
Stuart comes from Wainuiomata and has spina bifida. He always enjoyed sport, especially weightlifting. When weightlifting began impacting on his disability his neurosurgeon suggested he should try wheelchair racing. That is what he did and quickly qualified to the 1987 International Stoke Mandeville Games and won 4 medals. Just 1 year later, Stuart competed at the Seoul 1988 Paralympic Games, where he won a silver medal in the 200m 1C. After his retirement from Para athletics in 1990, Stuart became involved in indoor bowls and was in the Hutt Valley representative team for several years.
Jacque made her debut at the Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Games. She competed in Wheelchair tennis in the Women’s Singles and Doubles event with her partner Paralympian #110 Marilyn Stratford. In 2004, Jacque returned to the Paralympic Games competing again in the Women’s Singles and Women’s Doubles with a new partner this time, Paralympian #150 Tiffiney Perry. Jacque also entered many competitions in Wheelchair basketball, Para rowing, and kayaking. Jacque is still competing today in Waka ama called Para va’a. She was part of the New Zealand Team who won gold and silver at the World Sprints in Tahiti 2018. Jacque aims to gain selection for the World Sprint Championships next year.
Carey competed in Para athletics at the Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Games. Being a tetraplegic, Carey specialised in Wheelchair racing and competed in the 800m, 1500m and Marathon events in the T51 class. In Atlanta 1996, the New Zealand Paralympic Team included 34 proud collectively won 19 medals. Carey lived in Nelson and worked as a farmer. Carey passed awayin 2010. We welcome his family Michelle and Caitlin to receive his Paralympic pin. Paralympian number 98 Carey Lineham.
Justin was a member of the highly successful Wheel Blacks Wheelchair rugby team winning bronze at the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games. Two years prior to that achievement Justin also represented New Zealand with the Wheel Blacks at the 1998 Wheelchair Rugby World Championships where the team won the silver medal. Justin has a 25-year career working in disabled sport. He is the Disability Consultant for Sport New Zealand. Through the delivery of the Sport New Zealand Disability Plan, Justin is ensuring there will be quality and equitable, play, active recreation and sport opportunities for disabled tamariki and rangatahi, of their choice. Previously he has worked as a Halberg Foundation Senior Adviser in Canterbury. He developed a system for physically disabled students to achieve in physical education NCEA for the Ministry of Education and created pathways for disabled athletes in secondary school sports championships.
Kate is known for her multiple sporting talents, across both Para athletics and Para cycling. Just a year after taking up sprinting she made her Paralympic debut at the Athens 2004 Paralympics where she broke the world record in the 400m. Four years later at the Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing, Kate mounted the Paralympic podium taking silver in the T44 200m. Struggling to cope with the demands of athletics training on her body she switched to the lower impact sport of Para cycling. After just a year on the bike she won her first national title and has since excelled internationally. Kate was selected for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in Para cycling where she narrowly missed out on a medal in the 3km pursuit. In 2017 Kate received the Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to Paralympic sport. She has now retired from Para sport to focus on her family and seek new challenges.
Paula achieved at the highest level in Para cycling winning a gold and two bronze medals at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, as well as winning 2 World Championships titles in 2009. She was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2009 for services to cycling. Tesoriero has an in depth understanding of the Paralympic Games environment both as a Paralympian and more recently as the Chef de Mission to lead the New Zealand Paralympic Team at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Paula is currently the New Zealand Disability Rights Commissioner. She is passionate about the Paralympic Movement and its ability to change perceptions and transform society.
Jan is a well-known New Zealand Paralympic sailor. She was born and bred in Wellington. In 2000 she was diagnosed with a spinal cord condition which meant, that she would lose the use of her legs over time. In 2010, she tried out a newly installed sailing simulator at the Auckland Spinal Unit gym. This sparked the beginning of Jan’s sailing career. In the following year she teamed up with Paralympian #172 Tim Dempsey. The pair made their debut at the World Championships in the Netherlands in 2011 where they qualified a slot for New Zealand for the London 2012 Paralympics. She is to date the only female Paralympic sailor to represent New Zealand. Jan now resides in Auckland where she is still actively involved with Sailability Auckland and is also a member of the Royal Akarana Yacht Club. Over the years she has also had national successes in Para archery and Shooting Para sport.
Mary is visually impaired and made her Paralympic debut at London 2012 Paralympic Games. Mary struck gold with a world record time in the Women’s 200m Individual Medley SM11. Mary also won a further two silver medals and bronze. She continued her winning streak at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, where she won gold and set a World Record in the Women’s 100m Backstroke S11. Mary Fisher retired from Para swimming in 2018. She is now a Paralympics New Zealand Board member. Mary is well known for her role as a disability and environment advocate.
Greg has been involved in the sport of shooting for over 20 years. He competed in many competitions until 2000. However, it was not until 2009 that Greg was convinced to return to shooting, this time in the form of Shooting Para sport. Greg won a bronze medal at the 2009 Oceania Championships and made the finals at the 2010 IPC Shooting World Championships. Greg was selected to compete at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games and had an outstanding performance finishing 7th in a hotly contested event. Outside of Shooting Para sport Greg is a Mass Metrologist, the science of measurement.