Aucklanders were treated to a showcase of Para sport today at the ACC Paralympics New Zealand Open Day at Pulman Park in Papakura, with special appearances by Rio 2016 Paralympians Emma Foy, Rebecca Dubber, Tupou Neuifi, Chris Sharp, Caitlin Dore and aspiring Paralympian, Neelam O’Neill.
The public had the opportunity to discover a variety of opportunities to get involved with sport, from Para athletics, to Para waka ama, Para swimming, Wheelchair basketball and Boccia. They were also able to connect with supporting organisations including Be Accessible and Blind Sport New Zealand.
Rio 2016 Paralympic silver and bronze medallist, Para cyclist Emma Foy, said: “Today has been quite eye opening for a lot of people coming along, I think. There are over 20 different sports and providers here and its been so great to see people try everything and find new opportunities. The main thing is to let people know that having a disability doesn’t mean you can’t play sport, even just in your local area.”
The event was run by Paralympics New Zealand and its official partner, ACC, in conjunction with Parafed Auckland. It builds on the success of recent ACC Paralympics New Zealand Open Day events in Wellington and New Plymouth. It will be followed early next year by events in Tauranga and Dunedin.
Suzanne Jack from Papakura attended with her four grandchildren, saying afterwards: “This has really opened our eyes. Two of our grandkids, our twin girls Trinity and Karma, had a brain injury at birth and Karma also has Cerebral Palsy. They get quite overwhelmed in able-bodied sports, its been amazing to see them both jump straight in today! I had no idea there were so many opportunities or organisations.”
Jaryd Doughty (24) from Pukekohe was equally enthusiastic: “I had a serious car accident five years ago and I had a brain and spinal injury, so I have been in a wheelchair until recently. I have not played sport since my accident. I am absolutely loving it today, I don’t want to go home! I especially liked the Shooting Para sport and Shotput, and I really like the physical stuff. I like to get stuck in and work hard.”
PNZ and ACC have developed and jointly stage the series of events. Several other providers, including local Parafeds and National Sports Organisations, are invited on-site to showcase opportunities for disabled people in their local communities. PNZ classifiers and high performance team members work with participants to explore their physical capabilities and interest in the various Para sports available and their Paralympic Games potential. The events are designed to be fun and interactive, with friends and families also encouraged to attend. The fourth event in the current series is taking place at ASB Baypark, Tauranga on 25 March, with the final event in the series being held in Dunedin in April 2018.