On Tuesday 17 November, dsport President Alan Signal was invited to give the closing speech at the PNZ Celebration Project where 18 Paralympians were awarded their numbered pins by Governor General Patsy Reddy. Here is what Alan had to say.
Firstly, congratulations to all the Paralympians who this evening received their numbered pins, what an honour it has been to be here to celebrate with you.
For many, the Paralympics is the sporting pinnacle we all aspire to.
But for most, like me, we can only be inspired by your achievements.
As I look around the room I see an amazing group of people who are succeeding and excelling both in their sporting careers and also their professional careers. Some of you I know and have worked with, others I know by reputation. So I am humbled to have been asked to speak to you tonight.
As a young boy with CP growing up in the Wairarapa, I thought nothing of playing with my friends and classmates. I didn’t want to see myself as disabled, but I knew I had limited options to progress in sport. I made the Masterton rep team in cricket but that’s as far as I was going to go… can you imagine these shoes running between the wickets!!
It wasn’t until about 10 years ago that I found dsport and the opportunities for me to play wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby. For me, this has been a new chapter in my journey of discovery. It’s one I’m pleased to have found and I which I am totally committed to.
As President of dsport, I have the privilege of assisting disabled people in our region with their journey’s in sport. I am particularly proud of our disabled young people who are getting involved.
For many, their journey is not an easy one, but we do try to make it as accessible and as fun as possible.
Our Youth Group, with over 100 members, provides the gateway for their engagement. We are very fortunate this Group is run by your colleague Kate Horan, Paralympian Number 145.
Kate brings her knowledge and insight of high performance, her groundedness as a mum and grandmother, as well as her passion for inclusion, sense of humour and love of fun to the role.
This year we have been able to increase our support to our talented athletes. We are now seeing a number of our Youth Group members breaking age group records, Corran in Para athletics and Erin in Para swimming; while Johan is vying for a place in the Wheelblacks. Their eyes are firmly set on wearing the fern in Paris 2024 and beyond.
We are confident of what we see as a positive future for disabled young people in our region. We are proud of our 50 years of work in delivering disability sport and believe the legacy which we are celebrating today, with all of our Paralympians here, is providing the vision and inspiration for future generations.
To finish off, I would like to say to our Paralympians, their families, whanau and friends, thank you for all your hard mahi and determination and support you shown during your sporting career.
Thank you too for your ongoing commitment to making Wellington, and New Zealand, a better place to live and play.
Without you all, our job at dsport where we inspire, enable and achieve, would be much harder.
Bring on Tokyo 2020 … 1 !!!