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News posted on Monday 20th February, 2017

ACC Paralympics New Zealand Open Day in Christchurch a success

ACC Paralympics New Zealand Open Day

Several hundred people braved the weather to experience the South Island’s first ACC Paralympics New Zealand Open Day at Cowles Stadium, Christchurch and meet five members of the successful New Zealand Rio 2016 Paralympic Games Team. Five of New Zealand’s Rio 2016 Paralympians supported the event in Christchurch. This included three Cantabrians, 17-year-old sprint sensation William Stedman, Rio 2016 debutant javelin thrower Caitlin Dore and triple Paralympian, Para sailor Andrew May (Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and Rio 2016). The trio were accompanied by Rio 2016 silver and bronze medallists, tandem Para cycling pairing of Emma Foy from Dargaville and Laura Thompson from the Catlins.

Today’s ACC Paralympics New Zealand Open Day was the third in a three-part series, with the first event taking place in October at the AUT Millennium in Auckland and the second taking place in November at the Avantidrome in Cambridge. Disabled people of all ages were able to participate in a range of Para sports and find out how to get involved. Several organisations exhibited, including Blind Sport New Zealand, Snow Sports NZ and interactive sessions were held in Wheelchair Basketball, Wheelchair Rugby, Para cycling and Para table tennis.

ACC is proud to be supporting people with disabilities into sport at all levels. Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) uses the series as a way to spot potential Paralympians, as the organisation eyes the start to its four year build up toward the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

We caught up with the Paralympians to hear their thoughts:

Emma Foy, Para cyclist tandem with Laura Thompson (lives: Hamilton, hometown: Dargaville)
New Zealand’s leading tandem pairing won silver on the final day of racing at the Rio Velodrome in the Women’s B 3000m Individual Pursuit later, a bronze medal in the road cycling Women’s Road Race B.

“The idea today is that everyone can come along and try out a few Para sports and see what’s available in their community. I got involved through a Talent Identification camp a few years ago and from there, it grew. Rio was a really cool experience and the people are just awesome. It’s different to our normal competition, in terms of the number of people in the crowd and the TV cameras everywhere and just the… bigness of it. It’s been really good to see that the interest in Para sport has grown in New Zealand. I think there are awesome things that will happen in Para sport in the future.“

Laura Thompson, Para cyclist tandem with Emma Foy (lives: the Catlins)
New Zealand’s leading tandem pairing won silver on the final day of racing at the Rio Velodrome in the Women’s B 3000m Individual Pursuit later, a bronze medal in the road cycling Women’s Road Race B.

“We’ve had a lot of people come through today in Christchurch, a lot of young kids trying different Para sports and having a go. Para sport has definitely changed, there has been a massive transition. When I first came into Paralympic sport it was quite unknown and now it has a huge profile. People know what it is about and loved watching it on TV. Both of my campaigns, London 2012 and Rio 2016, were amazing and very different from one another. Now I am back home I am working more behind-the-scenes, helping out with organising events like today’s Open Day. It definitely gives me a very different viewpoint and for me, I really enjoy thinking that I can potentially help people to have the same experiences that I had in Para sport.“

William Stedman, Para athlete (lives: Christchurch)
Winner of two bronze medals in the Men’s 400m and 800m T36 in the Paralympic debut in Rio. The 17 year old ran the races of his life on two consecutive days to win his first ever Paralympic medals.

“It’s pretty cool seeing all these people here, wanting to get involved in Para sport. My family and I were lucky enough to be in the UK when the London 2012 Paralympics were on coincidentally and I saw all these people with the same disability as me, running. I found it really inspiring that they were on the world stage. We got back to New Zealand and I joined an athletics club and it started from there. In Rio, it was pretty nerve-wracking to be honest. I felt pretty stuffed afterwards, but it was awesome being there. I can’t really explain what it felt like to win my two bronze medals.“

Andrew May, Para sailor in Sonar crew (lives: Auckland, home town: Christchurch)
Three time Paralympian who came 4th at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games with his Sonar crew mates Rick Dodson and Chris Sharp.

“We’ve certainly had a chance to see lots of different sports here today at the Open Day. Its been great to be amongst the public again after a couple of months of downtime. All of my three Paralympic Games have been really special in different ways but Rio was amazing, we competed very well and finished just off the podium. It was an amazing place, I’ll never forget it. The Paralympics is now certainly very professional compared to the first one I went to in 1996. Up next, I have the World Masters Games in Auckland where I will be competing as a solo sailor, actually I’ll be going up against my Rio team-mate Chris Sharp in the same class! It will certainly be an interesting challenge, a new boat sailing single handed and a lot faster than I am used to!“

Caitlin Dore, Para athlete and Javelin-thrower (lives: Dunedin, home town: Christchurch)
Rio 2016 Paralympic Games debutant placed 7th overall in the Women’s Javelin F37 in only her second international meet.

“It’s been great to see everybody out trying new things and getting a bit more knowledge about the Paralympic Games. I can’t even describe what competing at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games was like for me. Being a young athlete watching the team compete in London and then to be able to step out with the team in Rio was an absolutely incredible experience. It was a privilege and the whole team just did amazingly well, I’m so proud. I started at the age of 11. In primary school I did shot put and discus. When school was up I moved to Dunedin and turned to Javelin throwing with my new coach and never looked back! This year is a busy year for me, I have quite a few competitions on at the moment as we are in the middle of our domestic season, but definitely looking toward the World Championships in July, hopefully we get there!“

Fiona Allan, Chief Executive of Paralympics New Zealand

“We are thrilled with the great turn-out across the series of three ACC Paralympics New Zealand Open Days and we are confident we have uncovered some new people that may have Paralympic potential.“

Adele Blackwood, ACC Injury Prevention Portfolio Manager, Communities

“The ACC Paralympics New Zealand Open Days are one of our favourite events. It is so great to be able to provide opportunities for families and individuals to try Para sport, at any level. Our partnership with PNZ has made it possible for more people to have a go and our sports rehab pathway provides a great start for ACC clients. We are so proud of this partnership.“

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