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News posted on Monday 31st May, 2021

Facebook live Panel

Pathway to the Paralympics

During a Facebook live panel on Monday, three inspirational Kiwis – Jesse Reynolds, Para swimming; Anna Grimaldi, Para athletics, and Cody Everson, Wheelchair rugby, linked-up for a chat with Te Radar to discuss their personal journeys and motivations 100 days out from the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

All three were promoting Paralympics supporter merchandise, by sporting the shirts designed by Glenn Jones. Viewers of the Facebook live, which doubled as a reveal, were some of the first to see the launch of the new merchandise.

The trio discussed some of the lighter moments on the road and shared their anticipation of an event that was not always certain to take place. ‘I’m just really happy that it’s going ahead,’ Anna said, ‘and that we can show what we’ve got, and what we’ve been working on for the last five years.’

Cody Everson, a 23-year-old Wheel Blacks player, grew up in Christchurch, dreaming of being an All Black. He was tackled and landed badly, resulting in all of his limbs being affected by paralysis. Cody is now Captain as well as a defender for the Wheel Blacks. ‘The best way for me to describe Wheelchair rugby is like demolition derby but controlled. You look like you’re just smashing into people, but it’s all tactics.’

He emphasised the physicality of his discipline: ‘You get smashed out of your chair a lot, and you can catch your fingers in the wheels; but apart from that you’re pretty safe as long as you steer away from the big guys.’ He talked about his recent engagement to his long-time girlfriend and greatest support system, Jess Roberts, who has been a huge support and influence in his sporting career.

Paralympian #205 Jesse Reynolds, a 24-year-old Para swimmer and former representative Wheelchair basketball player from Hamilton, was born with PFFD – proximal femoral focal deficiency – when he was a child he had a foot amputated, so he could wear a prosthetic. He competed in the Rio 2016 Paralympics, and says he loves that swimming puts him on an even playing field with able-bodied swimmers.

‘Everyone has their own different program,’ Jesse said, discussing his build-up. ‘There are Para swimming camps every now and then where we bring the team together to make sure we can still hang out and be happy to go away together for long periods of time.’

Paralympian #195 Anna Grimaldi, a 24-year-old Paralympic Long Jump champion from Dunedin, won a gold medal at the Rio 2016 Paralympics for Long Jump. Anna suffered a navicular stress fracture not long after Rio, which led to six months of rehab and two and a half years without a jump. However, this year, after overcoming many challenges, Anna is back and better than ever, ranked the second overall best long jumper in the country, able-bodied athletes included.

Social media is a big asset for her. ‘We tend to go away for large chunks of the year, and it’s always good to keep up with people at home via messenger while I’m away. They’ve all been a massive part of my journey, and the support I get from everyone is awesome, so being able to give them little insights on my page is really cool.’

‘It does boost your confidence, and it’s nice to see that people are interested,’ Cody agreed.

‘For the most part, in my field, we all get along pretty well,’ Jesse says of his discipline in the pool. Anna shared a similar sentiment about the competitors in her field.

Goodwill and empathy are clearly strong elements for all involved.

‘We’ve made friendships with other teams,’ Anna continues, ‘and it’s always great to get away and chat about the last few years, talk about competition, but also be in an environment where everyone’s the same, everyone’s got a disability, we’ve all had our struggles, but we’re all there being professional athletes.’

For those looking to show their support and help out, the trio said it would be great to see people wearing the supporter merchandise, which is available on the Paralympics NZ Facebook page, and all agreed that messages of support on social media were very much appreciated.

‘You can head on to our personal Facebook and Instagram pages,’ Cody suggested, ‘and you can get a glimpse into our lives and see how we are preparing, and then you can head to the Paralympics NZ page as well. They’re awesome at showcasing athletes.’

‘We’re really excited that we’re able to go over there and represent New Zealand,’ Anna says. ‘It’s definitely one of the more awesome parts of this journey and we hope that we can make you proud.’

Missed the live stream? Tune in to join the conversation and mark 100 days until the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games with Jesse, Anna and Cody:

Keep up with their journey and support by following them on their socials!

Anna Grimaldi:

Jesse Reynolds:

Cody Everson:

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