Posted on Thursday 8th September, 2016
The Paralympics New Zealand Friends and Family Function took place today in the beautiful setting of the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Gardens (Jardim Botânico). The group of 75 were delighted to welcome the Hon Nicky Wagner, Minister for Disability Issues and the New Zealand Ambassador to Brazil, Caroline Bilkey.

Lose and Fineasi Neiufi (15-year-old Para-Swimmer Tupou’s Mum and Dad):
Lose said, “It is great to be here and meet other friends and families of the Para-Athletes.“  She continued, “It is a bit like a dream being here in Rio. We could not believe the generosity of the New Zealand public when Seven Sharp told our story and in only two hours we raised the funds we needed to be here and cheer on Tupou. We will definitely be the loudest in the stands.“

Claire and Alastair McLean (16-hyear-old Para-Swimmer Hamish’s Mum and Dad):
“We are excited and cannot wait for the racing to start and Hamish is the same. We did not expect him to qualify for Rio, we thought it was going to be Tokyo 2020. However we have since learned that he had Rio as a goal in his sights for some time. He was focussed on achieving this and was thrilled to be selected and represent New Zealand.“ They continued, “Hamish has had so much support from the Wanaka community, his coach and his school, we cannot thank everyone enough.  The school did an amazing send off with a full school haka and they are also doing a Spirit of Gold mufti day.“

Michelle Oswald and Kim Morley (Para-Shooter Michael Johnson’s family):
Michelle (Michael’s partner) said, “This is my fourth Paralympic Games supporting Mike and he is definitely ready to roll and get started. He is training hard and staying focussed. I will be at all his competitions and I would say I am his biggest fan.“ She continues, “Since London 2012 Paralympics where Michael won a bronze medal he has been driven to win gold in Rio. He has taken every opportunity for exposure to compete in international competitions during this four-year campaign. Most recently Michael has been in New Zealand and even built himself a rifle range and heat chamber to acclimatise to Rio.“

Hon Nicky Wagner, Minister for Disability Issues: “This is the highlight of the disability calendar. The disability community have been working really hard to give disabled people more choice, more control over their lives and more opportunities. The Paralympic Games are a fantastic example of people that have taken up those choices, making the most of every opportunities and really living good lives.“

This is the first time a Minister has joined the New Zealand Team at a Paralympic Games. Hon Nicky Wagner continued, “I believe there is social change happening in the disability sector. With the Paralympic Games being broadcast in New Zealand this will provide all Kiwi’s with the chance to continue this change for all.“

The function concluded with many of the family and friends looking forward to once in a lifetime experience as they made their way to the Maracanã Stadium for the Opening Ceremony this Thursday morning 8 September 2016 (New Zealand time).

The Opening Ceremony of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games will take place on Thursday morning 8 September (New Zealand time), with live coverage beginning at 9am on DUKE. Viewers can catch the Team in action throughout the Games on DUKE and together with ONE News coverage, a special highlights programme will air every night on TV ONE and will be available online through TVNZ OnDemand and AttitudeLive.com. Further details https://www.tvnz.co.nz/tvnz-paralympics-schedule

The New Zealand Paralympics Team is 31-strong will compete at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games with an expected global contingent of 4,350 athletes from 160 countries, gathering to compete in the world’s largest multi-sport event for disabled athletes. New Zealand will contest six Para-Sports, chasing a target of 18 medals in total, including 12 gold medals.