The Waikato public will have a once in a lifetime opportunity on Saturday at the Avantidrome (Cambridge) as a Rio 2016 Paralympic torch will be on show for the very first time in New Zealand. The torch will accompany six of New Zealand’s Rio 2016 Paralympians to the ACC Paralympics New Zealand Open Day including gold and bronze medallist Nikita Howarth of Cambridge; silver and bronze medallist Laura Thompson and double Paralympian Kate Horan returning to their training base in Cambridge; Rio 2016 Paralympic debutants Jason Eales, Jesse Reynolds and Jacob Phillips of Hamilton.
The Paralympians are encouraging disabled people in the Waikato to come along on Saturday. This event is part of a new series of local events set to help disabled people get involved in sport. It’s hoped that the series will help increase interest and participation in community sport activities run by ParaFeds, National Sports Organisations (NSOs) and disability sport organisations, but also give Paralympics New Zealand the opportunity to spot talent that could move into a pathway focussed on developing future Paralympians.
The ACC Paralympics New Zealand Open Day series kicked off on Friday 21 October in Auckland, where crowds turned out and showed their interest in not only trying out various Para-Sports, finding out about opportunities in the community but also getting up close and meeting their Paralympic heroes.
Buoyed by this success, the second event in the current series is taking place at the Avantidrome on Saturday, and the third event at Cowles Stadium, Christchurch on 18 February 2017.
The new series follows on from New Zealand’s most successful Paralympic Games, ever. The Team secured a stunning 21 medals across 12 individual medallists – 9 gold, 5 silver and 7 bronze – beating its pre-Games target of 18 by 3 medals. Overall, the New Zealand Paralympic Team placed 13th on the medal table, its highest placing in history, and defended its title of number 1 in the world medals per capita won at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
A highlight of the day for many is likely to be a fascinating Q&A session with the New Zealand Paralympians at 10.30am. They will share insights into what made the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games so special, how it felt to compete in front of the raucous Brazilian crowds, behind the scenes Paralympic Village stories and what lies ahead for these champions.
Malcolm Humm, High Performance Director at Paralympics New Zealand said: “We had an exceptional Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, but this kind of success does not happen overnight. We begin every four-year cycle at this point. The ACC Paralympics New Zealand Open Days will have two objectives: firstly, to help disabled people discover the joy of local community sport, regardless of whether they have Paralympic ambitions. Secondly, we will be looking for those that display strong competitive potential.”
Adele Blackwood, Injury Prevention Portfolio Manager – Communities at ACC said: “Sport provides so many benefits to everyone involved. There are the obvious physical gains, and then there are the many positive benefits from being involved in a sporting community. It was great to see people at the ACC Paralympics New Zealand Open Day in Auckland learning about the sporting options in their community. People were having valuable discussions with the right people, making the first step by having a go, and leaving knowing what to do next.”
Waikato based Paralympian Nikita Howarth said: “I am excited to think that many other New Zealanders could get to experience the success and fun I have from competing in Para-Sport by making a start and coming along to one of the Open Days. I clearly remember the day 14 years ago when I decided I wanted to win a Paralympic gold medal. Olympian Sarah Ulmer visited my school and I thought she was amazing. The rest is history really.”
Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) and its major partner ACC have developed and will be jointly staging the events, with PNZ supporting partner Invacare supplying equipment. Several other providers, including local ParaFeds and National Sports Organisations, will be on-site to showcase opportunities for disabled people. PNZ classifiers and high performance team members will also be there working with participants to explore their physical capabilities and interest in the various Para-Sports available. The events are designed to be fun and interactive, with friends and families also encouraged to attend.
Further details here