New Zealand wins 3 GOLD and 1 BRONZE on Day 5, taking medal tally to 13 overall!
New Zealand results to date:
· 7th in the world overall on medal table
· 1st in the world per capita for medals
· 7 gold medals, matching the 7 gold medals secured by Australia to date
3 – Sophie Pascoe
1 – Liam Malone
1 – Cameron Leslie
1 – Mary Fisher
1 – Anna Grimaldi
1 – Sophie Pascoe
1 – Liam Malone
1 – Emma Foy & Laura Thompson
1 – Rory McSweeney
1 – Rebecca Dubber
1 – Nikita Howarth
Highlights from Rio today:
· GOLD & WORLD RECORD – Cameron Leslie, Men’s 150m Individual Medley SM4 Final
· GOLD – Sophie Pascoe, Women’s 100m Butterfly S10 Final
· GOLD – Liam Malone, Men’s 200m T44 Final
· BRONZE & first ever Paralympic medal – Nikita Howarth, Women’s 50m Butterfly S7 Final
· Sophie Pascoe now most successful New Zealand Paralympian in history with 14 medals, 9 gold
· 2nd equal on Day 1 of 5 – Andrew May, Rick Dodson and Chris Sharp, 3-Person Keelboat (Sonar)
· 5th, PB & Paralympic record (broken shortly afterward) – William Stedman, Men’s Long Jump T36
The New Zealand Paralympic Team has today had what must be the most successful single day in its 48-year history, collecting a record 2 GOLD medals and 1 BRONZE in the pool and 1 GOLD at the athletics track. The team, which had already had an outstanding start to the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, came in to today with 9 medals in the bag, to add another 4. The most successful day before today was Saturday NZT, when the team won 4 medals in just one hour; 1 gold, 2 silver and 1 bronze.
The first 2 medals came via epic races from seasoned performers, three-time Paralympians Cameron Leslie in the Men’s 150 Individual Medley SM4 and Sophie Pascoe in the Women’s 100m Butterfly S10. Leslie won gold and smashed his own World Record for the second Paralympic Games in a row. In securing gold, Pascoe became New Zealand’s most successful Paralympian ever, matching the medal haul of legendary Paralympian Eve Rimmer with 14, edging ahead of Rimmer with 9 gold to 8. Pascoe has now won 4 medals in Rio, 3 gold back-to-back and a silver with a personal best swim.
Over at the Olympic Stadium, Paralympic debutant Liam Malone certainly did not appear at all phased by the occasion; the blade runner won gold in the Men’s 200m T44 and set a new Paralympic Record as he went. The gold will nicely complement the silver he won a few days ago in the Men’s 100m T44, a result that saw him come from nowhere to secure 2nd after a phenomenal charge over the last 30m.
Back at the pool, New Zealand’s youngest ever Paralympian four years ago at just 13, Nikita Howarth, won her first Paralympic medal in a stellar swim that earned bronze in the Women’s 200m IM SM7.
In the background, behind the camera and lights, the rest of the Team competed to the absolute limit, picking up a swag of other results. Most particularly, the New Zealand Para-Sailing team has finished Day 1 of 5 days in the 3-Person Keelboat (Sonar) class at the top of the leaderboard, in second equal.
While at athletics, Paralympian William Stedman set a new Paralympic record of 5.35m on his first attempt, in the Men’s Long Jump T36, surpassing his personal best by 13cm. The record fell twice more as following competitors jumped further, with Stedman finishing 5th overall at his first Games.
Rio 2016 Performance Manager, Malcolm Humm, said: “Today has been incredible. It’s really hard to explain how the team is feeling at the moment, I mean – we are currently 7th on the medal table overall. Sophie Pascoe – just exceptional. Liam Malone – a new superstar has been born. Cameron Leslie – outstanding, as always. There are a couple of athletes that did not meet the expectations they had for themselves, or that maybe we had, but Mary Fisher in particular had an extremely tough and close race. Nikita Howarth, well it was her first attempt at a Paralympic medal and maybe there were a bit of nerves there, but she did great and it sets her up very well for her 200m IM in two days’.
He continues: “I’d also like to commend our Para-Sailors, who executed a perfect second race to come back from 8th in the first race. They certainly learnt a lot first time out and changed a few things and it worked extremely well, it’s very exciting. Will we meet our target of 18 medals, including 12 gold? I think we have a really great shot, especially at the 18 medals. 12 gold? Well, we are capable of it but its’s going to be tough, really tough. Our athletes are really going to have to push themselves over the next few days. Let’s see. I think we can do it. We’ve just go to keep pushing.“
Overall, as the hottest day of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games draws to a close, it’s fair to say the New Zealand Paralympic Games Team is turning up the heat! As competition closed, New Zealand had the same number of gold medals as Australia, taking it into 7th place behind the Aussies in 6th.
Leslie was the first Kiwi in the pool today. The current World Record holder took a commanding lead in the Men’s 150 Individual Medley SM4 heat to qualify fastest in 2:29.36. In the Final, he immediately took control to smash his own World Record by over 2 seconds, setting a new time of 2:23.12, taking New Zealand’s 5th GOLD medal of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Leslie finished ahead of Zhipeng Jin (China) and Jonas Larsen (Denmark). This is the third Paralympic Games in a row that Leslie has set the World Record in this event, dominating since the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games 8 years ago.
Leslie said: “I certainly felt a mixture of a lot of pain out there tonight, but I just had to get through the motions and remember the process. It is so easy for the wheels to fall off, if you focus on the pain.
We (Cameron and coach Simon Mayne) set a very challenging target time coming into this competition and we knew if we hit that time a gold medal would be on. I am so glad we did set such a challenging one because Jin (Chinese competitor) was pretty close behind in the end. I had no idea he was there, I was just focussed on making sure I did the things I could control, right.“
Fisher then qualified third fastest for the Women’s 50m Freestyle S11 heat in a time of 31.35. She went on into what turned out to be a brutal final, finishing 6th overall in a time of 31.80, half a second quicker than her heat. The race was incredibly close, with the lead switching multiple times. The top 6 finishers were barely over a second apart. The race was won by Guizhi Li in a World Record time of 30.73, followed by Maja Reichard (Sweden) and Maryna Piddubna (Ukraine). Reichard finished in the bronze medal position three days ago when Fisher smashed her competitors in the Women’s 100m Backstroke S11, taking the World Record and a gold medal for New Zealand in a time of 1:17.96.
Fisher said: “It was definitely not the finish I was hoping for as I thought it was really possible to medal. My swim in the heat this morning went really well. I went really straight and did not touch the lane rope once, which is the first time for me. So the final tonight I was really hopeful and quite certain I could go faster but it just did not happen. The first half of the race was really good, but the second half I just did not quite have a hold of my technique to finish in the top three. It has been great to see Cam’s amazing swim tonight, and looking forward to watching Soph and Nikita swim shortly too. I now have a couple of days off before my last two events.“
Pascoe then returned to the pool for the fourth day in a row, this time in the Women’s 100m Butterfly S10. In the heat she set a new Paralympic Record of 1:04.37, 4 seconds ahead of the field. She then went on to win gold, becoming New Zealand’s most successful Paralympian of all time by matching Eve Rimmer’s record of 14 medals, but edging ahead of her on the colour – Pascoe winning a total of 9 gold, 5 silver and 0 bronze compared to Rimmer’s 8 gold, 5 silver and 1 bronze. Today, Pascoe set another Paralympic Record of 1:02.65 and just missed breaking her own World Record of 1:02.60 set earlier in 2016. She annihilated Yi Chen (China) and Oliwia Jablonska (Poland) by more than 4 and 5 seconds respectively. The win continues her absolute domination of the pool her in Rio de Janeiro, making this her third GOLD medal in a row, to add to the SILVER she won earlier this week in a personal best time. Pascoe also had the honour of taking our New Zealand’s 200th Paralympic medal.
Pascoe said: “I have only just learnt tonight that I have won the most gold medals of any New Zealand Paralympian and that hasn’t quite sunk in yet. But I just go out there and give it everything. I challenge myself every day to take on the biggest challenge of all, taking on the world in the pool. That is what I did tonight. Now it is about focussing on the next one, the 100m Freestyle tomorrow.“
The final New Zealand Paralympian in the pool to compete in the heats was Nikita Howarth in the Women’s 50m Butterfly S7. Currently ranked number 1 in world, Howarth went into the final as the fastest qualifier in a time of 35.40. She finished in a time of 35.97, five tenths of a second behind silver medallist Courtney Jordan and nine tenths behind gold medallist, Susannah Rodgers in first.
Howarth said: “Tonight it was a bit different than this morning’s heat. I did not stroke the last 15 metres very well and that is what caused the bronze medal. I am still really happy with bronze. The rest of the field was a lot older than me so I still have a lot of time to go, so I’m happy.“
New Zealand’s second youngest Paralympian, 16-year-old Hamish McLean, had an exceptional day in the pool today. He finished the heats of the Men’s 200m Individual Medley SM6 in 5th place, putting him 9th fastest overall with a time of 2:59.81. McLean missed making his first ever Paralympic Final by the skin of his teeth – just over a tenth of a second, and it was not a PB. The youngster was justifiably thrilled with his performance, as it puts him in good stead for preparations leading toward Tokyo 2020.
New Zealand’s youngest team member, 15-year-old Tupou Neiufi, made her Paralympic debut today. She competed in the Women’s 100m Freestyle S9, finishing 7th in 1:11.21. Neiufi did not qualify for the Finals, but certainly won the competition for the loudest kiwi supporters, with her mother Lose living up to the promise she made on TV1’s Seven Sharp recently, to cheer loudest for her daughter.
While over at the Olympic Stadium, Liam Malone once again showed the sporting world that he meant business by setting a Paralympics record winning the Men’s 200m T44 in 21.06. Malone showed his true power moving through the race to cross the line ahead of Hunter Woodhall (USA) in 21.12 and David Bahre (Germany) in 21.41. This will add to the silver medal won by Malone in the Men’s 100m T44 on day two in Rio when he accelerated at a phenomenal pace through in the last 30 metres to take second. Johnnie Peacock won gold equaling his Paralympic record of 10.81 set in the heats. Malone, who got his first set of blades following through donations from the New Zealand public, said:
“To be honest, I’m pretty wired at the moment. I can’t wait to get back to the Village and have some food! I’m on the bus with the team. I can’t believe I won. I mean, I wanted to win of course, and I definitely thought I could do it, especially after Friday (when he won silver) but it was really tough. Hunter was right there; he was fast. It was a challenge to keep ahead of him. He is young, only 19.“
Meanwhile, Paralympic debutant William Stedman set a Paralympic record of 5.35m on his first attempt in the Men’s Long Jump T36, surpassing his personal best by 13cm. Following Stedman’s jump, this record was then exceeded by two other Paralympians. Stedman finished in 5th place. Jacob Phillips ran his second final of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games finishing 8th in the Men’s 200m T35 final in a time of 29.10. This exceptional young man overcame cancer to reach the finals in Rio today.
The 3-Person Keelboat (Sonar) class competition got underway for the first time today, with Andrew May, Rick Dodson and Chris Sharp taking to the water of Guanabara Bay. The team finished Race 1 in 8th position, but bounced back in Race 2 to finish in 1st position, taking them to 2nd overall on the leader board behind Australia and in front of Greece, Germany and Canada. Coming into the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, Australia and Great Britain are considered New Zealand’s greatest rivals. Great Britain on the other hand had a poor day, finishing 11th overall. The New Zealand team has been training closely with Australia over the past few months, so the boys know them well.
Andrew Brown, Head Coach: “This is a long series with 10 races in total, so it is early days. In race one the guys got off to an average start and had to slowly work their way through the fleet to finish in 8th. We regrouped in between races and focussed on our routine. We got a good start in race two and closed in on the second placed boat at the top mark, they jived at the top mark and got a nice wind shift into first place and were never headed off after that. We now sit in second equal, but we are not reading anything into this placing at this early stage.“
WHAT’S ON TOMORROW
New Zealand flag-bearer Holly Robinson makes her first appearance at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games tomorrow in the Women’s Javelin F46 and Sophie Pascoe will make her last appearance. The Para-Sailors will be out on the water again, with the Para-Shooters in action again too. Watch out for:
· Para-Swimmers: Sophie Pascoe; Nikita Howarth; Hamish McLean; Tupou Neiufi
· Para-Shooters: Michael Johnson; Jason Eales
· Para-Athletics: Holly Robinson
· Para-Sailors: Chris Sharp, Andrew May and Rick Dodson