Posted on Tuesday 27th February, 2024

Paralympics New Zealand reveals a new cohort of 20 Harvey Norman Para Sport Champions today, six months ahead of the Opening Ceremony of the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games. Para Sport Champions visit schools which are learning about perceptions of disability, inclusion, and the Paralympic Movement. The 20 Para Sport Champions are based in 9 regions around the motu, meaning more tamariki than ever before can meet these inspirational athletes.

Harvey Norman Para Sport Champions are Paralympians and Para athletes who challenge perceptions of disability through sharing their lived experiences and Para sport journey while highlighting the Paralympic values of courage, determination, inspiration, equality.

The Para Sport Champions initiative is part of Seeing is Believing, the Paralympic Education Programme, supported by Toyota. Paralympics New Zealand created and piloted the Para Sport Champions initiative in 2022, with the backing of long term PNZ Partner Harvey Norman.

Harvey Norman GM of Computers Mobile & Technology Division, Paul Keenihan is delighted the initiative is not only continuing, but expanding its reach:

“Each Para Sport Champion has their own uplifting determination to succeed, and their own incredible story to share. We could not be prouder to be helping those stories reach the Kiwis who need to hear them.”

Following the incredible impact the Champions had with schools during the pilot, PNZ announces this extension with excitement. PNZ CEO Greg Warnecke explains:

“You can see on children’s faces how inspiring it is to meet a Paralympian in person. When combined with learning about disability and inclusion through the lens of the Paralympic Movement, it’s even more meaningful. At Paralympics New Zealand we’re so pleased to be making this announcement today, six months ahead of the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.”

New Zealand schools taking part in Seeing is Believing can request a Para Sport Champion to visit their school. The Programme takes young learners on a journey. It challenges them to take steps towards growing a more inclusive New Zealand, beginning in their own school and community. The resources link to the New Zealand curriculum and will suit years 1-6. Resources include lesson plans, activity guides, worksheets, and quizzes, and are free for teachers and schools to use.

Para Sport Champion and Paralympic shot putter Caitlin Dore has been a Champion since the start. She feels strongly about the importance of taking their message into primary schools:

“For tamariki, it’s impactful because they are at an age where they are forming their own views about society and the kind of world they want to live in. Meeting a Paralympian or Para athlete helps them articulate their own values around disability and inclusion, and how they want their community to operate. There have been some incredible changes brought about by the tamariki themselves as a result.”

Teachers, home schoolers, parents and others wishing to find out more can sign up free of charge at education.paralympics.org.nz

The newly announced Para Sport Champions are:

Para Sport ChampionsPara SportRegion
Bailley UnahiPara alpine skiingOtago
Caitlin DorePara athleticsCanterbury
Danielle AitchisonPara athleticsWaikato
Devon BriggsPara cyclingWaikato
Gareth LynchWheelchair rugbyAuckland
Hamish McLeanPara swimmingAuckland
Holly RobinsonPara athleticsOtago
Jaden MovoldPara athleticsAuckland
Joe SmithPara athleticsAuckland
Kate Horan Para cyclingWellington
Kurt PetersonPara triathlonAuckland
Mike ToddWheelchair rugbyCanterbury
Mitch JoyntPara athleticsAuckland
Peter CowanPara canoeHawkes Bay
Rachel Maia Para climbing Whanganui
Sarah EllingtonPara cyclingWest Coast
Siobhan TerryPara cyclingBay of Plenty
Scott MartlewPara canoeCanterbury
William StedmanPara athleticsCanterbury
Wojtek CzyzPara badmintonWaikato