Posted on Thursday 15th September, 2022

Key points:

  • 3 Para athletes have been selected to represent New Zealand at the 2022 World Shooting Para Sport (WSPS) World Championships:
  • The event, in Al Ain, UAE (3-18 Nov), is a critical step toward the three Kiwis winning a quota and earning minimum qualifying scores for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.
  • Para athletes Natalie Brunzel and Neelam O’Neill had hoped to compete at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, but New Zealand was unable to earn slots because of COVID-related travel restrictions. They now have their sights set on Paris 2024.
Michael Johnson
Paralympian Michael Johnson
Natalie Brunzel bears the New Zealand flag at the 2019 WSPS World Championships
Para athlete Natalie Brunzel
Neelam O'Neill portrait
Para athlete Neelam O’Neill

Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) is thrilled to announce the selection of the New Zealand Shooting Para Sport Team to compete at the 2022 World Shooting Para Sport (WSPS) World Championships (Al Ain, United Arab Emirates) from 3–18 November. 

The team of three Shooting Para sport athletes is headlined by five-time Paralympian Michael Johnson (Auckland) who has won a gold and two bronze medals across Athens 2004, London 2012 and Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games. Para athletes Neelam O’Neill (Auckland) and Natalie Brunzel (Auckland) complete the team.

For Michael, who is both a competitor and PNZ Shooting Para Sport Lead, it’s a critical step on a course he has been building for some time.

“I got to compete at Tokyo 2020, but Neelam and Natalie didn’t have the opportunity to win their slot, thanks to COVID. That was absolutely gutting. These talented Para athletes must have the right opportunities to earn minimum qualifying scores, and hopefully quotas for Paris 2024. To that end, we are making the opportunities happen. New Zealand held its first ever International WSPS Grand Prix in July, where Natalie and Neelam were both able to qualify to go to these World Championships.”

For Natalie and Neelam, this is a chance at redemption after the bitter disappointment of not having the opportunity to qualify the required slots for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Natalie competes in the SH2 sports class with the air rifle. Neelam competes across both air rifle and air pistol events. She is in the SH1 sports class.

Michael hopes that New Zealanders competing at this event will help to inspire the next generation of Paralympians – or simply inspire people to start a new sport.

“Shooting Para sport is growing rapidly in New Zealand, and as it does, the opportunities are increasing all the time. I hope that by representing NZ in Al Ain, more disabled New Zealanders will think ‘I want to do that’, and they will get into sport – especially Shooting Para sport.”

Paralympian #148 Mike Johnson

The New Zealand Shooting Para Sport Team includes: 

Para athleteClassificationImpairmentClubResides
Michael JohnsonSH2Loss of muscle power – Spinal cord injury (quadriplegia)Parafed Auckland Shooting ClubWaiuku
Natalie BrunzelSH2Loss of muscle power – Spinal muscular atrophyParafed Auckland Shooting ClubAuckland
Neelam O'NeillSH1Loss of muscle power – Spina bifida (paraplegia)Parafed Auckland Shooting ClubAuckland

HOW DOES CLASSIFICATION WORK IN SHOOTING PARA SPORT?

Shooting Para sport is the sport of shooting for Para athletes who have a physical impairment
leading to reduced function in the lower and/or upper limbs.

Classification provides the structure for fair and equitable competition to ensure that winning is determined by skill, fitness, power, endurance, tactical ability and mental focus. Classification groups Para athletes into a sport class according to the degree of activity limitation resulting from their impairment. In Shooting Para sport, there are three different sport classes:

SPORT CLASS SH1 (PISTOL)

Para athletes with upper and/or lower limb impairment competing in pistol events are in the SH1 class.

SPORT CLASS SH1 (RIFLE)

This sport class is designated to Para athletes with lower limb impairment for competition in rifle events.

SPORT CLASS SH2 (RIFLE)

This sport class is for rifle events only, and is designated to Para athletes with upper limb impairment (which necessitates them to use a shooting stand to support the rifle), all or not in combination with lower limb impairment.