New Zealand Team wins GOLD and BRONZE medals on the first day of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games
Highlights from Rio today:
- Anna Grimaldi wins New Zealand’s first medal – GOLD – in the Women’s Long Jump T47
- Rebecca Dubber wins New Zealand’s second medal – BRONZE – in the Women’s 100m Backstroke S7
- Liam Malone breaks the Paralympic Record in Men’s 100m T44 Heat, running 10.90s on the track where Usain Bolt ran the 100m Final in 9.81s at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games a few weeks ago
- Kate Horan breaks Paralympic Record in Women’s 3km Pursuit C4 Qualification
- All six Paralympians competing in Rio today broke their previous personal bests
The New Zealand Paralympic Games Team started their campaign in Rio de Janeiro on a high note, with 19-year old Anna Grimaldi from Dunedin smashing her previous personal best by 21cm to win a Gold medal in the Women’s Long Jump T47. Not too long afterwards, 23-year-old Rebecca Dubber came from near the back of the field put claim to a Bronze medal in the Aquatic Centre, in the Women’s 100m Backstroke S7. In an extra special coincidence, International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Governing Board member and Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Games six time medallist for New Zealand, Duane Kale, was able to present Dubber with her bronze medal. All six Paralympians in action today broke their previous personal bests, underlining New Zealand’s serious medal intentions.
As the first day winds down, organisers will be thrilled as enormous crowds turned out for events across Rio today, despite it being a working day. Rumour has it that expected weekend crowds will break all records. In the Barra Olympic Park, thousands of local Brazilians wandered between venues and events, many dressed in Brazilian colours complete with face paint and fancy dress. The overwhelming feeling of optimism and excitement was particularly felt in the Aquatic Centre, where every appearance by local Para-Swimming hero Daniel Dias and his compatriots drew cheers and chants of the kind that raises the hairs on the arms and means conversations must be held at a shout.
Day One has marked an exceptional start for the New Zealand Paralympic Team, a breakdown of it has been included below. Day Two promises to be equally exciting, with the following kiwis in action:
- Para-Cyclists, Amanda Cameron and Hannah van Kampen (tandem), Emma Foy and Laura Thompson (tandem) and Byron Raubenheimer
- Para-Swimmers, Sophie Pascoe, Mary Fisher, Jesse Reynolds
- Para-Athletics athletes, Jacob Phillips, Rory McSweeney and Liam Malone
To date, New Zealand has won 199 Paralympic medals since it first competed at the 1968 Tel Aviv Paralympic Games. This means New Zealand is poised to win its 200th medal sometime very shortly.
Paralympian Kate Horan got the New Zealand campaign off to a flying start, breaking the Paralympic record in the Women’s 3,000km Pursuit C4 heats in a personal best time of 4:02.608, beating her own previous time by nearly three seconds. The Paralympic record was broken again shortly afterward, proving just how competitive this event is. Horan went on to contest the Bronze medal in a hard fought battle with Megan Fisher (USA), leading for the majority of the race before Fisher put on a late charge to win. Horan finished just off the podium in a time of 4:04.437, three tenths behind Fisher. The event was eventually won by Shawn Morelli (USA) with Susan Powell (Australia) taking out silver.
Horan said: “I think for me it was a case of just going out there and trying to pace myself and definitely in the last four laps to give it everything. I knew it was going to be a big ask. It was tough out their today, it really was.“ She continued, “All the girls are going faster now and I was rapt to make the final. And to get fourth – it wasn’t the plan but that is sport. The last four years have been a huge challenge but I reached my goal of being here in Rio. I have an amazing coach and support staff that are completely behind us and have got me here today.“
The action then moved over to the Aquatic Centre where Paralympian Cameron Leslie was the first New Zealander into the pool in Rio. Leslie set a new personal best time of 2:52.21 in the Men’s 200m Freestyle S5, over two seconds faster than his previous time. Leslie qualified fifth fastest overall for the final and once again reduced his personal best to 2:52.10 placing 8th overall in a blistering final convincingly won by Daniel Dias (Brazil), to the absolute rapture and applause of a very vocal crowd.
Leslie said: “It’s been a good day. For me, this was about getting my first race under my belt and getting used to the atmosphere and going through the process before my main race later on. This is not a favoured event for me, but all in all I exceeded the target time we were after, anything low 2.50s is good for me. This morning it was a two second personal best, so to go slightly quicker again tonight shows it wasn’t a fluke. It shows I am in the right space for (my main event) in a few days’ time.“
Rebecca Dubber & Nikita Howarth
Rebecca Dubber and Nikita Howarth followed swiftly after Cameron Leslie in the first heat of the Women’s 100m Backstroke S7 this morning. They both swam a great heat finishing first and second with personal best times of 1:23.62 and 1:24.69 respectively. Rebecca and Nikita went into tonight’s final second and third fastest respectively, with Liting Ke (China) qualifying fastest from heat two.
The race, last on the Aquatic Centre agenda for Day One, saw Rebecca Dubber came from behind to win a bronze medal in the Women’s 100m Backstroke S7 final, with compatriot Nikita Howarth finishing in 6th place in the same final. Dubber, who made a slow start, was sixth overall into the split and then powered up the field from the 25metre mark to touch the wall in third place overall. Howarth, who started very well and was fourth at the 50m mark, was overtaken in the final sprint to the end. The gold medal was won by Liting Ke (China) with Ying Zhang (China) in the silver medal position.
Dubber said: “I’m not even really comprehending it right now. It’s so exciting and amazing. And to think, I was so nervous and unsure of what I would be capable of today and I’ve completely blown my expectations and I think everyone else’s. It’s been a massive journey to be here. I am grateful. Excited. After everything I have been through in the last four years I’ve earned my right to be here and I have earned my right to win that Bronze medal.“
Howarth said: “Today race went pretty well, this morning a bit quicker this evening not so much, what can I say – it was a pretty great race for me. I was so happy this morning with my PB (personal best), I mean two second off is not a bad time so I’ll take it! I’ve got three days off and then I’ve got my 50m Butterfly and that’ll be fun. I’ll be spending these three days training and preparing for my next races.“
Anna Grimaldi, debuting in her first Paralympic Games in the Women’s Long Jump T47, won New Zealand’s first medal and first GOLD medal of the Games, after a spectacular final jump in the Women’s Long Jump T47. Grimaldi went into the final in third position with bronze a certainty, before cranking out a final jump that was 21cms longer than her previous personal best, taking out the win by 3cm from her nearest competitor, Yunidis Castillo (Cuba). Carlee Beattie (Great Britain) took bronze.
Grimaldi said: “When I arrived at the stadium today I was just so excited to compete and become a Paralympian. I knew that my training had put me in great form so when I set a personal best on my second attempt I was thrilled. On the final jump I felt like I had nothing to lose, I was already in the bronze medal position and was so pleased with that. But I knew I just had to go for it one last time. I knew I had it in me somewhere.“
Raylene Bates, Grimaldi’s coach said: “Everyone is in such good form in the team. They have trained and prepared so well for Rio and we felt as if we were waiting for the icing on the cake and we certainly got that today. Anna has been so consistent in her training and has always had that something special. I was confident Anna could perform but you never know how it will pan out on the day. We had prepared for a multitude of scenarios coming into Rio so Anna and the team were prepared, however the Paralympic Games have been amazing from this great stadium to the efficient transport and volunteers – it is such a credit to the Organising Committee.“
Liam Malone certainly stamped his mark in the Men’s 100m T43/44 heats this morning, qualifying second fastest for tomorrow’s final in a time of 10.90s behind British legend and London 2012 Paralympic Games gold medallist Jonny Peacock on 10.81s. Comparatively, Usain Bolt ran 9.81s just a few weeks ago on the same track. Malone’s name is on the lips of many this evening, as the media speculate on the possibility of Malone beating Peacock or medalling in this popular spectator event.
Malone said: “I’m in a good headspace, I’m just keen to go out and run and you can only do your best. I think it’s fantastic that the New Zealand people are getting behind the Paralympics, I’ve certainly experienced heaps of support throughout my whole journey here, which I have appreciated from day one. I’ve got a lot of friends that have come over to watch me race.“
Viewers can catch the Team in action throughout the Games on DUKE and together with ONE News coverage, a special highlights programme will air every night on TV ONE and will be available online through TVNZ OnDemand and AttitudeLive.com. Further details https://www.tvnz.co.nz/tvnz-paralympics-schedule
The New Zealand Paralympics Team is 31-strong will compete at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games with an expected global contingent of 4,350 athletes from 160 countries, gathering to compete in the world’s largest multi-sport event for disabled athletes. New Zealand will contest six Para-Sports, chasing a target of 18 medals in total, including 12 gold medals.