GOLD for Tupou Neiufi in the Backstroke, as the Para cyclists put on another great show and the Wheel Blacks finish out their Pool matches
Highlights from Tokyo – Day 3:
- GOLD medal for Tupou Neiufi in the pool, following an incredibly dominant performance
- New Zealand medal count now sitting at two, with a silver from Sophie Pascoe on Day 2
- Para cyclists Nicole Murray and Anna Taylor put on another great show at the Velodrome
- Ben Tuimaseve sets a new Ocenia record in the Men’s Shot Put F37
- Top try scorer in the Wheel Blacks match again was Barney Koneferenisi.
Coming up – Day 4:
- Lisa Adams to make her Shot Put F37 debut, under the eagle eye of coach Dame Valerie Adams
- Caitlin Dore (Paralympian #197) returns for her second Games, also in the Shot Put F37 event
- Debutant Danielle Aitchison will sprint for the first time, racing in the Women’s 200m T36 Heats
- The Wheel Blacks will return for the 7th – 8th classification playoff match
Tupou Neiufi received a raucous reception in the Athlete Village this evening, after she returned from the Tokyo Aquatics Centre with New Zealand’s first GOLD medal of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Her dominant showing will no doubt set the tone the remainder of the Paralympics and as the sun went down on Day 3, the New Zealand Paralympic Team can be incredibly proud of its GOLD and SILVER medal haul to date.
Tupou Neiufi (Paralympian #201) delivered an incredibly dominant performance in the pool this evening, comfortably taking gold in the Women’s 100m Backstroke S8 in a time of 1:16.84, almost 1.5 seconds ahead of rivals Kateryna Denysenko (Ukraine) in silver, with Jessica Long (USA) taking out the bronze. Neiufi went into this event ranked 2nd in the world.
Neiufi went one better than her heroine Sophie Pascoe, a silver medal winner in the Women’s 100m Breaststroke SB8 yesterday. An emotional Pascoe and other members of the Kiwi Para swimming team, including Jesse Reynolds, cheered her loudly from the stands – more than making up for the lack of crowds.
Neiufi said after the medal ceremony: “It just feels surreal. I don’t even know how to feel. I’m not going to lie; I have no idea where the technique went in the second 50! I was trying to stick to one side (of the lane) and all of the sudden near the end I was on the other side, and I was like, oh my gosh what am I doing? But as soon as I touched the wall and saw the result I was like, ok, I’ll let this one slide!
“When I touched, I was a bit confused. As soon as I heard my team-mates cheering, I thought I probably should take a look to see what’s going on. And as soon as I saw the result on the board, I just started getting emotional – I saw the camera and was like, no don’t cry, the camera’s right there! But the emotions got the best of me. I’m just so happy.
It (the medal) means a lot to me because it not only represents me, my hard work, but everyone that’s helped me along the way. My parents, my family, my coach, my team. I’m just so grateful for that.“
Neiufi, just 20 years of age, debuted at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games five years ago, where she finished 7th in the Women’s 100m Backstroke S9. A South Aucklander of Tongan descent, Neiufi was hit by a speeding car when she was only two years old. This resulted in a left sided hemiplegia, meaning she has paralysis on the left side of her body. She is the eldest of seven children and she has always been driven and determined both in and out of the pool. Most recently she competed at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games for the first time, taking to the pool in front of huge audiences and placing 6th in the Women’s 100m Backstroke S9. In 2019, she won a silver in the Women’s 100 m Backstroke S8 World Para Swimming Championships. She came into today’s event in Tokyo ranked 2nd in the world in this discipline.
Tupou Neiufi will be back in the pool on Day 8, competing in the Women’s 50m Freestyle S8.
Para cycling – track
It was another thrilling day on the track at the Izu Velodrome in Tokyo today, with kiwis Nicole Murray and Anna Taylor back at it in the Velodrome, this time competing in the Women’s C4-5 500m Time Trial.
Both athletes had strong rides in amongst an incredibly competitive field.
Fresh from her bronze medal ride-off on Day 1, Murray was back looking for results on Day 3. She put a massive PB (personal best) on the boards, finishing in 6th position. The performance clearly delighted Murray and her proud coach, Damian Wiseman, as they celebrated afterwards.
Murray said: “It was really fun today, really cool to go out there and finish on a high in the velodrome. I also managed to smash my PB and also my start lap, and that was really cool.“
After setting a Paralympic Record in qualifying on Day 1, Taylor returned on Day 3 looking for more success. She set a time just short of her PB (personal best), placing 8th, two places behind her team-mate. The event was eventually won by reigning Rio 2016 Paralympic champion Kadeena Cox (Britain) in dominant fashion, followed closely by Kate O’Brien (Canada) in silver and Caroline Groot (The Netherlands) in bronze.
Taylor said: “I’m absolutely loving it. It’s cool to take your place in the Paralympic legacy. It’s always a great time to be out on the race track. Being in the Izu Velodrome has been a surreal experience, and all the love and support I’m getting from friends and family back home has been overwhelming.“
Stu MacDonald (Para Cycling Head Performance Coach) said: ““For Anna and Nicole it was good to be able to compete again in the arena and take as many learnings as they can for the future. Getting competition experience is so important so they get used to those surrounds and the occasion and can focus on performance.“
“Now our attention turns to the road at Fuji, which will be a different challenge. The heat and humidity are very noticeable. We have planned and trained for it, but that is nothing like the actual experience being here. The Para cycling road group have all been out on the circuit to experience it prior to race day.“
Murray and Taylor now move to the road, for the Women’s Time Trials and Road Race on Day 7 and 9.
Paralympic debutant Ben Tuimaseve set a new Oceania record in the Men’s Shot Put F37 today, as New Zealand’s first Para athletics athlete of the Paralympics. With throws of 12.86, 13.31 and 13.21 he just missed out on top 8 and the chance to advance through to final throws.
Tuimaseve, who has Cerebral Palsy, is currently ranked 8th in the world for the F37, after picking up a shot put for the first time in 2016. Three years later, Ben made his international debut at the Oceania Athletics Championships in Australia. He was then selected to represent New Zealand at the World Para Athletics Championships in 2019, where he placed 12th. On his return to New Zealand, Tuimaseve underwent surgery on his ankle, which left him unable to compete in the 2020 season. The delay to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games was a lifeline to the South Auckland-based shot putter. He fought his way back into impressive form in 2021, producing successive national record-breaking performances over the summer.
Tuimaseve said: “To my friends and family and everyone in the sports that’s helped me along the way, thank you very much.“
This was Tuimaseve’s first and only event at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games and he commented: “It’s my first Paralympics and I’m coming back, cause it’s pretty hard to let go after feeling what I felt tonight.“
The Wheel Blacks were back on the court for the third day in a row, competing in their last Pool round against Canada. This vastly experienced Canadian team boosted players that have competed at up to 5 consecutive Paralympic Games and ranked 5th in the world. The Wheel Blacks kicked started the match with a powerful haka. Taking that energy into the first quarter where their fire and speed was impressive.
They went into the second quarter only three points down however Canada started to gradually pull away and the Canadian team were too strong with the final score 51-36.
Barney Koneferenisi was again top try scorer with an impressive 18, followed by Tainafi Lefono with 7 and captain Cody Everson with 6.
Everson said: “This game was a lot better. One of our big work ons was to come out and start strong, and we really pushed them in the first quarter.“
Greg Mitchell (coach) said: “We definitely brought it this time. We’ve been a bit asleep at the wheel a couple of times, but that was certainly not the case today. We just turned over some really easy balls. We had some good opportunities, we kept playing the solid style of game we talked about. We just didn’t link up on some of those passes. Every game we’ve asked them to give their all and they did it again today.“
What’s on Day 4:
The weekend features Wheelchair rugby and Para athletics, with the Wheel Blacks now competing in the 7th – 8th classification match against Denmark.
In field Lisa Adams will compete in the Women’s Shot Put F37 event. Adams, who has Cerebral Palsy, will make her debut under the eagle eye of coach and sporting legend, Dame Valerie Adams. Relatively new to Para sport, Adams was talent spotted by legendary Para athletics coach Raylene Bates in 2018 and from her very first throw, was seen as a potential star in the making. Just 18 months after first picking up a shot put, Adams was selected in the New Zealand team for the 2019 World Para Athletics Championships. In the F37 shot put competition she broke her own world record three times and came away with the gold.
Caitlin Dore (Paralympian #192) will return for her second Paralympics, after placing 7th in javelin with the spectacularly successful Rio 2016 Para athletics squad. Dore, who also has Cerebral Palsy, made the shift to shot put after reassessing her athletic career post Rio. Results have been very promising: she broke the New Zealand F37 shot put record in February 2018, just eight months after making the change. She then represented New Zealand at the 2019 World Athletics Championships, placing 7th in the shot put F37 final.
Debutant Danielle Aitchison will take to the athletics track to compete in the Women’s 200m T36 Round 1 Heats, with the finals taking place on Day 5, Sunday. After quitting team sport in 2016 due to the challenges from her lack of hearing, Aitchison was encouraged by her Mum to attend several disability camps to re-engage her interest in sport. Her love of sprinting was crystallized after she competed at the 2017 Halberg Disability Games. Her focus paid off, with selection to represent New Zealand at the 2019 World Para Athletics Championships in Dubai. On international debut, she flew through her 200m T36 heat securing the fastest qualifier for the final. In the final, it took a world record breaking performance to beat her to the gold medal. With a silver under her belt, she lined up in the 100m T36, securing 4th in the final.
|Sport||Event||Athlete/s||NZ Time *|
|Wheelchair rugby||Mixed – 7th-8th classification||Wheel Blacks||2.30pm|
|Athletics||Women’s Shot Put – F37 Final||Lisa Adams||10.21pm|
|Athletics||Women’s Shot Put – F37 Final||Caitlin Dore||10.21pm|
|Athletics||Women’s 200m – T36 Round 1 Heats||Danielle Aitchison||00.26am|
* Please note race times are subject to change by organisers, with limited advance notice.
The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will be broadcast in Aotearoa New Zealand. Viewers can catch the action as it happens, non-stop from midday, every day on TVNZ DUKE (Freeview 13, Sky 23 and live streamed, TVNZ OnDemand) together with extensive delayed and highlights coverage. Along with 1 NEWS coverage, a special highlights programme will air every morning at 9am on TVNZ 1 and will be available online via TVNZ OnDemand and AttitudeLive.com. TVNZ flagship programmes, including Breakfast and Seven Sharp, are expected to cover the Paralympics.
Find out more: https://www.tvnz.co.nz/shows/paralympics/schedule