Meet the New Zealand Shooting Para Sport Team: Neelam O’Neill
We caught up with the New Zealand Shooting Para sport team ahead of the 2022 World Shooting Para Sport (WSPS) World Championships. Check out the interview below with Neelam O’Neill, where we ask about her passion to increase women’s participation in Shooting Para sport and what three celebrities she would invite to a day’s training!
1. Tell us a bit about yourself, where did you grow up, and when did you first became aware of Para sport?
I grew up in Whangārei, Northland. Shooting has always zigzagged in and out of my life. However, I first became aware of it as a Para Sport when I moved to Auckland in 2011 for university. I tried it as a Para Sport when Parafed Auckland (now Disability Sport Auckland) were holding Saturday morning sessions at the Otara Spinal Unit.
2. You’ve spoken previously about your passion for increasing women’s participation in Shooting Para sport. Have you seen a growth in this area since you first entered the sport? What needs to happen to continue supporting this growth?
Yes, definitely! We have another international female shooter in our NZ team now, Natalie Brunzel, which is exciting! Target shooting here at home has had lots of interest and an increase of participation from women, both non-disabled and disabled athletes. The biggest shift has been on the international stage, where there has been an influx of amazing female shooters coming through and dominating the world stage in the mixed gender events. It’s been an incredible change from when I started and it’s great to see the equality coming through, but there’s still work to be done.
I believe in order to support the growth of women in sport, in any sport, is accessibility and coverage. We have a stunning range of amazing female athletes in Aotearoa and being able to show the future generations what possibilities are out there for them is important. Sport provides many benefits. Not only does it give you a purpose and passion, it also helps you to develop and grow as a person. Having access to various sports, resources and being able to view your favourite sport with athletes you admire and look up to will help to motivate the future generation to pursue and thrive in any sport they want to do. They just need to know there are opportunities out there waiting for them.
3. You’ve overcome much disruption and many hurdles since the last World Shooting Para Sport World Championships in 2019. What drives you each day to keep improving and competing?
At the end of the day, I want to be the best shooter I can be. Shooting has been a huge part of my life for the past 10 years and I’m always looking for ways to improve my skills in my chosen events. I wake up excited to train and try new things most days and this is what keeps me motivated to be the best I can be.
4. What are your goals heading into the 2022 World Shooting Para Sport World Championships?
Being the best shooter I can be and having fun are my main goals for the competition. It’s been three years since I’ve competed internationally and so I’m looking forward to being back on the international stage once more.
5. Finally, if you could invite any three celebrities to join you at the shooting club for a day’s training, who would they be and why?
That’s a hard one! I’ve never thought about it.
- Jacinda Ardern – So she can see what precision target shooting is all about.
- Chandro Tomar (RIP) – Was one of the oldest and greatest sharpshooters, who drove the movement for women pistol shooting in India.
- Keanu Reeves – One word, ‘Matrix’.
Read more about Neelam’s teammates:
The 2022 World Shooting Para Sport World Championships take place in Al Ain, UAE from 3-18 November. It is a critical step toward the three Kiwis winning a quota and earning minimum qualifying scores for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.