Posted on Monday 12th April, 2021

Paralympians Cameron Leslie, Jesse Reynolds, Nikita Howarth, Sophie Pascoe and Tupou Neiufi have been selected by Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) to the New Zealand Paralympic Team heading to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games which begin on 24 August. The announcement was made at the team’s National Training Centre at AUT Millennium today and marks the first group of Para athletes to be announced to the New Zealand Paralympic Team.

Between them, the five Para swimmers hold a staggering 20 Paralympic medals and 14 long course world records and they are expected to play a major role in New Zealand’s campaign at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games

Paralympian #164 Cameron Leslie was a Paralympic gold medallist and world record holder at Beijing 2008, London 2012 and again at Rio 2016. He will be competing at his fourth straight Paralympic Games in Tokyo. Leslie will be looking to continue his outstanding performances this time in both Para swimming and Wheelchair rugby if Wheelchair rugby is selected. Leslie has a quadruple limb deficiency.

Paralympian #166 Sophie Pascoe is the most decorated New Zealand Paralympian having won 15 Paralympic medals. Pascoe made her Paralympic debut at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games securing three gold and one silver medal. Four years late in London she continued her world class performances winning three gold and three silver medals. At her third Paralympic Games Pascoe went on to win three gold and two silver medals. Tokyo 2020 will be Pascoe’s fourth Paralympic Games. She will proudly wear the silver fern in Tokyo, as she hopes to continue to cement her place in the history books as one of New Zealand’s most successful Paralympians. Pascoe has a single limb deficiency.

Paralympian #179 Nikita Howarth was New Zealand’s youngest ever Paralympian when she made her Paralympic debut in London 2012 at just 13 years of age. She then went on to win a gold and bronze medal at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Tokyo 2020 will see Howarth compete at her third Paralympic Games after only returning to the sport of Para swimming less than two years ago after a very successful stint competing in Para cycling. She recently set a new short-course world record in the Women’s 100m Individual Medley SM7, as she returns towards her top form. Howarth is a double limb deficiency.

Paralympian #201 Tupou Neiufi was first identified by PNZ in 2011 as part of a Para swimming talent identification programme. She then went on to make her Paralympic debut at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. At only 15 years of age she placed 7th in the Women’s 100m Backstroke S9. Neiufi is currently ranked 2nd in the world, having won the silver medal in the women’s 100m backstroke S8 in the 2019 Para Swimming World Championships in London. Neiufi has a left sided hemiplegia, meaning she has paralysis on the left side of her body.

Paralympian #205 Jesse Reynolds has been a competitive swimmer since the age of 11 and made his Paralympic debut in Rio 2016 where he swam two personal best times. He is currently ranked 6th in the 100 m backstroke S9, where he placed at the 2019 Para Swimming World Championships in London.  Reynolds has a single limb deficiency.

Paralympian #166 Sophie Pascoe said, “It is a real honour to be selected to represent New Zealand at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games,” she continues, “To represent my country at my fourth Paralympic Games is a privilege. I know the New Zealand public will get right behind us as they did for the Rio 2016 Paralympics and really show their support.”

Paula Tesoriero (Chef de Mission, NZ Paralympic Team) said, “We are thrilled to welcome five experienced Paralympians to the NZ Paralympic Team. The knowledge and understanding they will bring to the team will be immense and I know they will provide invaluable support to those Para athletes that are competing at the Paralympic Games for the first time.”

Fiona Allan (Chief Executive, PNZ) said, “It is fantastic to announce our first group of Para athletes selected to represent New Zealand at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games today. Cameron, Sophie, Nikita, Tupou and Jesse have recently competed at the NZ Swimming Championships last week and their performances have satisfied PNZ Selectors that they have met the selection criteria for Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.”

She continues, “The last year has been incredibly challenging for all New Zealanders and we celebrate the resilience and determination of Cameron, Jesse, Nikita, Sophie and Tupou. They are incredible Paralympians that drive social change and inclusion through their performances both at home and internationally.”

Steve Johns (CEO, Swimming NZ) said, “On behalf of the NZ swimming community we are hugely proud of the five Paralympians selected and wish them all the very best for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.”

The New Zealand Paralympic Team has consistently featured Para swimmers since first sending a team to a Paralympic Games in Tel Aviv 1968.

Further selections to the New Zealand Paralympic Team are expected in the coming months for up to 7 further Para sports. The team may include up to 45 Para athletes.

The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will be held from Tuesday 24 August to Sunday 5 September 2021 and will include 22 Para sports on the event schedule and up to 4,400 Paralympians competing. The Paralympic Games is the largest event worldwide for driving social change and inclusion. 

Para swimmers selected to the New Zealand Paralympic Team are:

ParalympianResidesSwimming ClubClassificationImpairment (Disability)Coach
Cameron LeslieWhangareiWhangareiS4, SB4, SM4  Quadruple limb deficiencySimon Mayne
Sophie PascoeChristchurchQE11S9, SB8, SM9Single limb deficiencyRoly Crichton
Nikita HowarthTe Awamutu Hamilton AquaticS7, SB7, SM7Double limb deficiencyMat Woofe
Tupou NeiufiAuckland PukekoheS8, SB8, SM8HypertoniaSheldon Kemp
Jesse ReynoldsAucklandFairfieldS9, SB8, SM9Single limb deficiencySimon Mayne