Posted on Sunday 18th September, 2016

The New Zealand Paralympic Team will arrive in Auckland Airport arrivals on Thursday 22 September from 6.00am and a public welcome home event will be staged at 10.00am on Friday 23 September at the AUT Millennium, Rosedale, Auckland

Paralympian Liam Malone has been chosen to carry the New Zealand flag into the famous Maracanã Stadium for the Closing Ceremony, as the Team finishes its Rio 2016 Paralympic Games campaign.

The stunning performances of the 31-strong New Zealand Paralympic Team has seen a total of 21 medals (9 gold; 5 silver; 7 bronze) won, exceeding the pre-Games target of 18 medals by 3 medals. The Team has also met its ambition to retain the title of number one in the world per medals per capita. Despite not reaching its target of 12 gold, by winning a total of 9, Rio 2016 is now equal to the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games as the most successful Paralympic Games in New Zealand history.

Traditionally, the Closing Ceremony flag bearer for New Zealand is chosen by the Team itself; they are asked to vote for the Paralympian they believe best represents the collective achievements of the Team at a Paralympic Games. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Team voted overwhelmingly for Malone.

Not only has Malone had an exceptional Games in terms of his results, winning two GOLD medals in the Men’s 200m and 400m T44 and a SILVER in the Men’s 100m T44, he has made an enormous contribution toward increasing awareness and influencing how New Zealanders think about disability.

Over the past 10 days, Malone and his 30 team-mates, including the record 11 other medallists – Sophie Pascoe, Cameron Leslie, Mary Fisher, Nikita Howarth, Anna Grimaldi, Holly Robinson, Emma Foy & Laura Thompson, William Stedman, Jessica Hamill, Rory McSweeney and Rebecca Dubber – have had their stories told and re-told, demonstrating that the focus should be on ability, not disability.

Ben Lucas, Rio 2016 Chef de Mission, said: “Liam is a truly exceptional young man and seeing him chosen as flag bearer for the Closing Ceremony is a very proud moment for me as a New Zealander.“

“The Paralympic Games is always a very unique environment. It’s the pinnacle of high performance Para-Sport and the culmination of 4, 8, 12 and sometimes more years of elite training, planning and sacrifice by the Paralympians that compete here for their countries. Even seasoned campaigners can find the environment a challenge, especially in your Village home where you put together a team of athletes that sometimes don’t know each other well and are different ages, backgrounds and sports.“

“But Liam very much took the whole experience in his stride, so much so it’s hard to remember he is actually debuting in Rio. He has a unique ability to laugh at himself, a talent I think that many New Zealanders will be aware of now through his unique post-race interviews! This has greatly contributed to the relaxed team atmosphere in the Village, allowing everyone to go out and perform to their best.“

Liam Malone said: “I am actually quite shocked, I just found out a few minutes ago. I really had no idea I would be chosen and it’s a huge honour, I will fly the flag with a huge amount of pride. I actually nearly cried when the team told me… yes, I had a little tear! Rio has been so amazing for me and I just can’t thank New Zealand enough for the support on this journey, it took me 3 years to get here! I have never been to the Maracanã, I had to miss the Opening Ceremony, so I am stoked about this.“

Paralympics New Zealand is delighted to announce that the New Zealand Paralympic Team will arrive at Auckland Airport arrivals on Thursday 22 September from 6.00am and a public welcome home event will be staged at 10.00am on Friday 23 September at the AUT Millennium, Rosedale, Auckland.