Posted on Tuesday 24th August, 2021

The New Zealand Paralympic Team will join together tonight to mark the opening of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games and celebrate the announcement of Paralympian #166 Sophie Pascoe and Paralympian #208 William Stedman as Hapai Kara.

The New Zealand Paralympic Team will not be attending the Opening Ceremony and as such the traditional role of flagbearers have been replaced with equivalent leadership roles. Pascoe and Stedman have been chosen as they are a symbol and embodiment of the Paralympic values for the rest of the team, serving as a reminder to others about what the New Zealand Paralympic Team stand for and what the team can showcase to New Zealand and the world.

The role of Hapai Kara reflects the leadership of the role. A hapai is a carrier or bearer, and comes from the whakatauki, ‘Te amorangi ki mua, te hapai o ki muri.’ Literally translates to the priests in front, the bearers of provisions behind. Also explained as the balance of spiritual and physical needs. Kara can translate as a term of address to a friend; a flag, banner or ensign; or a request for support in times of conflict.

Sophie Pascoe said: “This is such an honour and privilege to be named as Hapai Kara of the NZ Paralympic Team. This is the first time that I have taken on a role such as this in the New Zealand Paralympic Team, and it is wonderful to have this opportunity here in Tokyo at my fourth Paralympic Games. I am an incredibly proud Kiwi taking on this leadership role with pride. I’m very excited for the Paralympics to commence and look forward to the team and I doing our very best as we know the entire country is right behind us.”

Sophie Pascoe at Rio 2016 Paralympic Games (Credit: Getty Images)

William Stedman said: “It is such a big honour to be announced as H?pai Kara as a leader for the NZ Paralympic Team especially with Sophie Pascoe who is one of the legends of Paralympic sport in New Zealand. When I was first asked I was a bit surprised as I had not been expecting it but also very excited. It is great to be able to represent New Zealand in this way.

William Stedman at Rio 2016 Paralympic Games (Credit: Getty Images)

Paula Tesoriero (Chef de Mission) said: “Sophie and William have both excelled within their sports and are both the exemplar of our Paralympic values – courage, determination, inspiration, and equality. We are thrilled to announce their appointment as Hapai Kara for the New Zealand Paralympic Team.”

She continues: “The Opening Ceremony is a wonderful occasion and we acknowledge that some people may be disappointed that we will not be attending the Opening Ceremony.  The Opening Ceremony by its very nature brings together large numbers of people from multiple nations. As a team we are operating as a NZ bubble and within that individual sport bubbles and therefore the exposure of team members to large groups of people from many nations is not aligned with our commitment to our Covid-19 protocols and operating procedures aimed at keeping our team as safe as possible particularly in light of the growing number of cases in Tokyo.”

With this in mind and to celebrate the appointment of Pascoe and Stedman as Hapai Kara the New Zealand Paralympic Team will gather together this evening within their sport bubbles, outside the residential buildings in the Paralympic Athlete Village. This celebration will be lead by Paula Tesoriero (Chef de Mission) as anticipation and excitement builds with the team beginning competition the following day on Wednesday 25 August. On Day 1, Para swimmer Jesse Reynolds, the Wheel Blacks and Para cyclists Sarah Ellington, Nicole and Anna Taylor will be first to compete in Tokyo.

In addition to the appointment of two Hapai Kara, three Para athletes have been selected to join Pascoe and Stedman to form a Para athlete group who will serve the role to provide an athlete voice to Chef de Mission Paula Tesoriero and the leadership group of the New Zealand Paralympic Team.

These athletes include Paralympian #148 Michael Johnson who will compete in his fifth Paralympic Games in Shooting Para sport, Para athlete Cody Everson who is captain of the Wheel Blacks and Para athlete Sarah Ellington making her Paralympic debut in Para cycling.

Paula Tesoriero (Chef de Mission) said: “These three Para athletes are leaders in their Para sport and will connect with each other and the wider New Zealand Paralympic Team to provide an athletes view and feedback to ensure we are creating the best possible environment for the team.”