Posted on Monday 12th September, 2022

Remembering Barcelona 1992, a pivotal Paralympic Games, 30 years on. We spoke to Evan Clulee, a Paralympic debutante, and Dave MacCalman, team captain, to hear what it was really like.

See also Dave MacCalman’s reflections.


By Evan Clulee, Paralympian #76

I remember sitting in the Halls of Residence at Lincoln University watching the 1992 Olympic Games, with other students, and Paralympic teammate Glenn Barnes and thinking, “I’m going to be in that Barcelona stadium in 3 weeks’ time!” Quite a surreal thought, and exciting as well.

Evan Clulee and Glenn Barnes at the team selection.

Time to look to the future

Our New Zealand team was small: 13 athletes, and 6 support staff. Three of the Paralympians were returning athletes, with the number of debutants much higher, at 10. Dave Hill was Chef de Mission, and in his summary of the 1992 Paralympic Games, he expressed that it was time to look to the future. (Paralympians such as #4 Graham Condon, #35 Trish Hill, and #51 Morice Hennessy who had competed in Seoul 1988 were near the end of their Para athletics careers.)

For the 10 debutants this was our chance to represent New Zealand at the highest level. Many of the debutants came away with Personal Best times, and New Zealand records. We were a close team and supported each other well. Several went on to represent New Zealand with success at subsequent Paralympic Games.

A candid photo of the NZ Paralympic Team at Barcelona 1992.

Raising our own funds

All team members had been involved with fundraising for our team. Yes, we had to raise some of our own funds! In 1990 the New Zealand Sports Foundation came on board to offer more financial support to high level Para athletes. NZ Development Squads were made, with squad members benefitting from small financial grants.

In subsequent Paralympic Games, staffing levels were greater in comparison to our 1992 team, a reflection of the limited funding available at the time. Changes were made for the better in terms of resourcing future Paralympic teams. Having said that our 6 staff supporting us on our 1992 team were outstanding individuals, who worked hard in support of the Para athletes. Some already had experience of Para sport events overseas, and some staff went on to support subsequent NZ Paralympic teams.

World record performances from Jenny Newstead and Cristeen Smith

The medals for the NZ Paralympic Team came from two Paralympians: #81 Jenny Newstead in Para swimming, and #82 Cristeen Smith in Para athletics. Jenny’s performances in the pool were world record beating, and she gained 4 gold medals, and 1 silver. Meanwhile on the track, Cris won the T2 100m in a world record time, gaining the gold medal.

Spanish hosts ran ‘first Paralympics of the modern era’

It’s been written of the Barcelona Games, that they were the first of the modern era.

The Barcelona 1992 Paralympic Games were only the second games to held in the same city, and venues, as the Olympic Games. The first time had been four years’ earlier in Seoul, Korea, in 1988. So, 1992 wasn’t long into the drive towards equal recognition for Para athletes, and the Paralympic Games gaining the status they deserved. (Now if a country bids for the Olympic Games, the Paralympic Games are part of this bid, and both Games are run by the same Local Organising Committee).

The Games were very well organised and run, and the Spanish hosts were amazing. I’ll always remember heading out into the Opening Ceremony with the team, in front of thousands of spectators, and stopping to remove our Spanish hats, as a mark of respect to the King and Queen of Spain. It was especially memorable for me because my 21st birthday was on the day of the Closing Ceremony! It was an amazing event to celebrate this age milestone, surrounded by the team.

Evan Clulee in racing wheelchair alongside competitor
Evan Clulee competes in the Barcelona 1992 Paralympic Games

Forever grateful

There are many aspects I will forever be grateful for from the Barcelona 1992 Paralympic Games event, and experience…

  • For selection, being part of this team. To become a New Zealand Paralympian is a huge privilege.
  • To Graham Pearson who made my ultra-lite carbon fibre racing wheelchair.
  • For our amazing team members, many of us are friends to this day.
  • For all the people who worked hard to organise our 1992 team, fundraise, and get us there.
  • To our families who provided the support and motivation to get us there.
  • Special mention of Dave Hill, Chef de Mission who did a huge amount of behind-the-scenes work on the logistics and organising.
  • To Bruce Tocker, Assistant Chef de Mission who provided support both before, and on this trip.
  • To outstanding support staff that accompanied us – Dr Ross Bohm, Kathy Condon, Bernie Harland, Debbie Muralt.

(Editor’s note: Kathy Condon, Dave Hill, Sir Paul Holmes, Bruce Tocker, Paralympian # 24 Ross Hynds were awarded the PNZ Order of Merit for outstanding service to the organisation and Paralympic Sport.)

Remembrance

We remember team members who are not with us, and we are thankful for them and their influence on our lives. Dave Hill, Dr Ross Bohm, and Paralympian #24 Ross Hynds. May they all rest in peace.

Twelve Days of Glory documentary

I’m also grateful also that through the documentary “Twelve Days of Glory”, spearheaded by producer Chas Toogood, and fronted by Sir Paul Holmes (RIP), we have the chance to look back and remember what for many of us was a life changing Paralympic Games, 12 amazing days in Spain, representing New Zealand with pride.

Paul Holmes interviews Cristeen Smith for Twelve Days of Glory
Paul Holmes interviews Cristeen Smith for Twelve Days of Glory

Celebration Project a chance to relive Barcelona 1992

Finally, thanks to Paralympics New Zealand, and your staff. Through the Celebration Project, it was such a blessing to receive our Paralympic honours, and numbered pin, and the bonus of being able to catch up with fellow teammates, at the events across Aotearoa.

Read Evan’s reflections on the Celebration Project here.