Posted on Monday 17th May, 2021

To watch Neiufi’s story, click here,

Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) today marks ‘100 days to go’ until the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, marking an important milestone as anticipation builds towards the 16th summer Paralympic Games. The NZ Paralympic Team has competed at Paralympic Games since 1968 and through their stories and performances have inspired the nation. At the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games Paralympians and Para athletes will continue to draw on the pride and desire that is so deeply rooted in New Zealanders to succeed on the world stage. 

Fiona Allan ONZM (Chief Executive, PNZ) said: “As New Zealanders we have a unique and compelling drive to be the best that we can be. We all come together and unite to support our sportspeople taking on the world.” 

She continued: “We know that the Paralympics in Tokyo will be different and with international spectators unable to attend it is more important than ever that Kiwis at home demonstrate their support.  We are pleased to launch a special range of merchandise for Official Supporters of the New Zealand Paralympic Team. The Japanese themed designs have been created exclusively for PNZ by amazing Kiwi artist Glen Jones meaning that, in lieu of New Zealand supporters travelling to Tokyo, we can all still get behind the team and join with them in spirit.” 

Paula Tesoriero MNZM (Chef de Mission, New Zealand Paralympic Team – Tokyo 2020) said: “As a Paralympian and having competed at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games I truly understand how important and impactful it is knowing you have the support of your nation behind you.”

Tesoriero (NZ Paralympian #168) achieved at the highest level in Para cycling winning a gold and two bronze medals at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, as well as winning two World Championships titles in 2009. She was the first New Zealand Paralympian to win a gold medal at a Paralympic Games in Para cycling.

She continued: “Our Paralympians, Para athletes and support staff are focussed on preparation and training with domestic events providing an opportunity for competition and training camps bringing Tokyo hopefuls and those already named into the NZ Paralympic Team together as part of their build up.” 

One such story that will inspire the nation and draw on the pride and excitement of all New Zealanders is that of Paralympian #201 Tupou Neiufi and her coach Sheldon Kemp. 

Tupou Neiufi (Auckland) –NZ Paralympian #201– is a Para swimmer who will compete at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games taking place from 24 August to 5 September 2021. Neiufi’s disability is left side hemiplegia, meaning she has paralysis on the left side of her body. She competes in the sport class S8 within Para swimming.

Neiufi was first identified by PNZ in 2011 as part of our Para Swimming Talent Identification programme. She was then quickly selected by High Performance Sport New Zealand (HPSNZ) to their ‘Pathway to Podium’ programme. 

2016 was a huge year for Neiufi seeing her selected to the New Zealand Paralympic Team to compete at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. At only 15 years of age, she made her Paralympic debut in fantastic style placing 7th in the Women’s 100m Backstroke S9. 

Neiufi was a member of the New Zealand Paralympic Team that won a stunning 21 medals across 12 individual medallists in Rio 2016 (9 gold, 5 silver and 7 bronze). The Team finished first in the world per capita and 13th in the world overall. 

She trains at the Pukekohe Swimming Club under the guidance of her coach Sheldon Kemp. She is the eldest of seven children and she has always been driven and determined both in and out of the pool. 

Neiufi said what she is looking forward to most at the upcoming Paralympic Games is getting to reunite with the athletes of the NZ Paralympic Team, meeting new and upcoming Paralympians and just being able to bond together as a team.  

She said: “Heading towards the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games I am just aiming to do the best that I can by being the very best version of myself at the Paralympics.” 

When asked what she hoped her legacy would be as a result of her Para swimming achievements, Neiufi said: “I would like to inspire kids, especially kids with a disability in the Polynesian community to be able to watch me and feel inspired to go out and give Para sport a go.” 

Sheldon Kemp (Para Swimming Coach) has been coaching Neiufi since the age of 8. He has been a key influence and support for Neiufi as she learnt to be more efficient in the water to support her disability. With a coach and athlete relationship that spans nearly 12 years Kemp sees himself as not only a coach, but also a friend and mentor supporting Neiufi in her dream to be a swimming champion. 

When asked what made Neiufi such a successful Paralympian Kemp said: “She is resilient, she is strong minded. And as much as she is very humbled by the opportunities she has been given she is always focused on ticking all the boxes. Tupou has amazing role models in the Para swimming team including Paralympians Sophie Pascoe and Cameron Leslie. Having them around Tupou just drives her to strive for excellence.”

To watch Neiufi’s story, click here,