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News posted on Sunday 7th May, 2023

Laureus finalist Cameron Leslie heads to Awards Ceremony in Paris: “it’s surreal”

Cameron Leslie smiling, indoors, wearing AquaBlacks shirt

Lionel Messi, Rafael Nadal, Kate Ledecky and Tiger Woods will be there – and so will New Zealand’s own Cameron Leslie. The Laureus Awards are the world’s most prestigious sports awards, and Paralympian Leslie (Ngāpuhi) is one of six finalists for the Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability.

Leslie is New Zealand Paralympian #164 and competes in both Wheelchair rugby and Para swimming. He is a multiple gold Paralympic medallist and holds the current world record in the Men’s Individual Medley 150m SM4.

Leslie describes the experience as “surreal”:

“This is not something I ever expected or work towards. I feel humbled and proud to be nominated for such a prestigious award. I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support and encouragement of my teammates, coaches, and family. I also think back to generous support of the public and the sporting communities that have encouraged me throughout my career.”

Paralympics Acting CE and Paralympian #96 Duane Kale explains:

“Cameron is a remarkable athlete and a remarkable human being. We’re thrilled that his achievements are getting the visibility they deserve. In 2022, he went from medalling and breaking a world record in the Para Swimming World Championships in June, to co-captaining the Wheel Blacks in the Wheelchair Rugby World Championships in October. There are very few athletes who could represent their country globally in two sports in a matter of months, and I think this really shows the calibre of Cameron’s ability.”

Leslie’s wife will be with him in Paris, while his two young kids will be waiting at home to hear how Daddy did from their grandparents’ place.

While Leslie describes himself as “hating the limelight,” he sees a real benefit to the publicity that being at the Laureus Awards brings.

“I am very proud as a Paralympian to be at these awards. I hope that it inspires any young disabled person who wants to get involved in sport that they can, and that there is a pathway and opportunities.”

The power of visibility is clear to Leslie. The world record holder was born with quadruple dysmelia (congenital loss of limb). The Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games made a powerful impression on him growing up. Seeing people that looked like him achieving incredible triumphs helped inspire Leslie to aim high. Roll on to 2008 and the 18-year-old Para swimmer blitzed to a shock gold medal at the Paralympic Games. Fifteen years later, he is still competing in two sports, winning golds and breaking world records – achievements which won the attention of the Laureus Awards judges.

Swimming New Zealand‘s High Performance Manager Amanda White agrees that Leslie’s presence at the Laureus Awards is uplifting:

“Cameron works with up-and-coming Para swimmers and his influence across the board is so inspiring. He is just next level.”

Will Leslie be starstruck by any of the sportspeople at the Awards Ceremony? There are certainly a few he’d like to meet.

“I don’t know what to expect at the Awards night, but it will be an awesome chance to be in the company of the world’s best athletes.”

The Awards Ceremony takes place on Monday 8th May in Paris.

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