Posted on Sunday 5th September, 2021

As the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games comes to a close for the New Zealand Paralympic Team, Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) Chief Executive Fiona Allan, speaks of her hopes that the nation will continue to carry the flame for disability rights.

The New Zealand Paralympic Team won’t be present at the Tokyo 2020 Closing Ceremony because of our commitment to our Covid-19 protocols and operating procedures aimed at keeping our team as safe as possible. Instead, at sunset on Sunday 5 September, as the Paralympic Games come to a close in Tokyo, Auckland’s Sky Tower will glow gold – the colour of Paralympics New Zealand, and purple – the international colour of disability awareness and a key part of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) campaign ‘WeThe15’.

The illuminated Sky Tower is a visible symbol of a Paralympic Games which has captured the hearts and minds of New Zealanders in a magical way.

It has been a Paralympics with unique challenges, and so many triumphs for the New Zealand Paralympic Team. “Our Paralympians were champions before they even competed,” explains Chef de Mission Paula Tesoriero. “They faced many challenges in the lead up to the Paralympics including being unable to train through lockdowns, reduced international competition and they didn’t know if Tokyo 2020 would go ahead, or if they would be able to travel to it if it did – it’s hard to maintain the extreme level of focus needed in those circumstances.”

Despite the challenges, Kiwi Paralympians brought home a haul of medals, new records and personal bests along with the unique experience of being part of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. A total of 12 medals were won by Tupou Neiufi, William Stedman, Danielle Aitchison, Anna Grimaldi, Holly Robinson, Lisa Adams and Sophie Pascoe (whose impressive two golds, one silver and one bronze medal brings her total Paralympic medal collection to 19).

Through their performances our Paralympians have shown Kiwis what is possible and the level of interest in Para sport has surged. Not only have Kiwis watched the Paralympics they have also taken the next steps, registering their interest to get involved as a Para athlete, coach or volunteer. During the course of the Paralympic Games, the number of expressions of interest on the PNZ website has grown significantly.

“We are thrilled with the NZ public support of our Paralympians and the desire and demand to see more Paralympic sport,” says Fiona Allan (Chief Executive, Paralympics New Zealand). “Kiwis are excited to see their heroes represent our nation on the world stage. Para sport has the power to transform lives and we are seeing that with these Paralympics.”

Paula Tesoriero (Chef de Mission, New Zealand Paralympic Team) believes the Paralympics can help transform how disability is viewed in New Zealand society. She points out: “The Paralympics is about helping change perceptions of disability – that when you create the right environment and reduce barriers – people can flourish, thrive and achieve.”

Technology has also helped Kiwis connect with our Paralympians performances in Tokyo 2020. “The NZ Team app had almost 50,000 active daily users. “Kiwis found it really useful to be able to access schedules and results – and of course send support to the team,” enthuses Allan. In addition, over a million people saw PNZ posts on Facebook. “Results posted on Facebook were attracting hundreds of comments – messages of excitement, support and, above all, pride,” Allan explains.

Allan encourages those Kiwis who have connected with Para sport to stay ‘tuned in’ as the Paralympics conclude for Tokyo 2020. “By showing your support for our Paralympians you are now part of a global social change movement. You’ve seen what’s possible at the Paralympics in Tokyo and the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games are now only six months away. Now look at what’s possible in your home, your workplace, your school.

“We work hard to change the way disabled people are included in society, to change the narrative of disability every single day and the Paralympic Games provides a great platform to assist us to achieve this. We continue to invite all Kiwis to join in this conversation and show their support.”

Kiwis looking to get involved with Para sport can sign up at www.paralympics.org.nz.

Medals won by the New Zealand Paralympic Team at Tokyo 2020    

YearMedalSportNameEvent
2020GoldPara athleticsLisa AdamsWomen’s Shot Put F37
2020GoldPara swimmingSophie PascoeWomen’s 200m IM SM9
2020GoldPara swimmingSophie PascoeWomen’s 100m Freestyle S9
2020GoldPara swimmingTupou NeiufiWomen’s 100m Backstroke S8
2020GoldPara athleticsAnna GrimaldiWomen’s Long Jump T47
2020GoldPara athleticsHolly RobinsonWomen’s Javelin Throw F46
2020SilverPara swimmingSophie PascoeWomen’s 100m Shot Put F37
2020SilverPara athleticsDanielle AitchisonWomen’s 200m T36
2020SilverPara athleticsWilliam StedmanMen’s 100m T36
2020BronzePara athleticsDanielle AitchisonWomen’s 100m T36
2020BronzePara swimmingSophie PascoeWomen’s 100m Backstroke S9
2020BronzePara athleticsWilliam StedmanMen’s Long Jump T36