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News posted on Wednesday 3rd April, 2019

Paralympian Mary Fisher appointed to Paralympics New Zealand Board

New Zealand Paralympian Mary Fisher


  • Paralympian Mary Fisher appointed to Board bringing current Para athlete voice and heart
  • PNZ Order of Merit awarded to Ben Lucas and Ken Sowden MNZM
  • The PNZ AGM today celebrated the many recent achievements within Para sport and of Paralympics New Zealand including the success of New Zealand Paralympians at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.

London 2012 and Rio 2016 Paralympic gold medallist Mary Fisher was today elected to the Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) Board by unanimous vote and support from PNZ Member organisations. Fisher who is well known for winning 5 Paralympic medals and 8 World Championship titles throughout her sporting career retired from Para swimming in November 2018.

Fisher believes as a recently competing Paralympian she brings knowledge of the current Para athlete voice and heart to the table. She said: “For over a decade, representing New Zealand in Para swimming took up the majority of my waking thoughts, many sleeping thoughts and influenced nearly every decision I made. Sport taught me resilience, the value of teamwork, patience and contributed to my self-esteem and accepting myself as a person who is blind. Watching the societal change towards disabled people during this time has been amazing. I feel passionately about continuing to drive this change and contributing behind-the-scenes as a facilitator for other Kiwis wanting to pursue elite Para sport.“

She continued: “As a board member I will be able to contribute to the development of the Paralympic Movement in New Zealand continuing to live by the Paralympic values of courage, determination, equality and inspiration. I look forward to adding my experience with youth and the wider disabled community to the discussion.“

Fisher is currently a Trustee with the Henderson Trust and a Wellington Trustee for the Halberg Foundation. She is a part-time Volunteer and Recreation Coordinator at the Blind Foundation, learning Te Reo M?ori, is a regular with the Glamaphones and Wellington Community Choir and mentor for youth with vision impairment and their families.

Dr. Selwyn Maister (PNZ Chair) said: “It is a great privilege to have Mary join the PNZ Board today. She will join fellow Paralympian Duane Kale and together will provide the Board with valuable ongoing insights and advice from an athlete’s perspective. Mary’s passion for youth and disabled Kiwis will ensure the Board continues to represent a diversity of opinion.“

He continued: “I would like to thank all PNZ Board members that have contributed so much to PNZ and the wider Para sport community. I would especially like to acknowledge departing Board member Paralympian Paula Tesoriero for her leadership, expertise and passion and wish her well as she continues to follow her passion of disability advocacy currently as the Disability Rights Commissioner for New Zealand.“

Previously co-opted board member Jane Cotter was re-elected after serving on the PNZ Board since 2017. Cotter brings a wealth of experience in finance and business supported by extensive knowledge of the not-for-profit, disability and voluntary sectors.

The PNZ Board were also thrilled to announce the awarding of two PNZ Order of Merit memberships to Ben Lucas and Ken Sowden. The PNZ Order of Merit was established in 2001 and recognises individuals who have given outstanding service to PNZ or Para sport.

Lucas has been involved in Para sport for over 25 years as a Paralympian, board member and administrator. During his 10-year sporting career the two-time Paralympian competed in Para athletics (wheelchair racing). Lucas took on numerous leadership roles as a Paralympian including team captain for the New Zealand Paralympic Team at both Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games. During this time, he worked as Sports Development Manager at ParaFed Canterbury and was instrumental in setting up the Academy Programme that supported the success of many Canterbury Para athletes at the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games.

Lucas has remained a key figure in Para sport since his retirement, holding positions on the PNZ and ParaFed Canterbury Boards. Most recently, he was Chef de Mission for the highly successful New Zealand Paralympic Team at the Rio 2016 Paralympics.

Ken Sowden has made a significant contribution to disabled young people over the past 25 years. His contribution to the Para sport sector from grass roots to high performance has been immense and varied including the operations of ParaFed Canterbury, national, Oceania and international Wheelchair rugby and the Paralympic Games. A highlight is undoubtably Sowden’s commitment and contribution to the success of New Zealand Paralympic Teams across 5 Paralympic Games. This began at the Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Games where he provided logistics support to the medal winning Wheelchair rugby team. He continued this involvement into Sydney 2000, then moved to Operations Manager for the New Zealand Paralympic Team at Athens 2004, this continued at both Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Throughout the Paralympic Games Sowden worked tirelessly behind the scenes to organise the logistics, create the village environment and ensure Paralympians entered the Games environment with ease allowing them to focus on performance.  

The PNZ AGM today also celebrated activity and achievements over an 18-month period (July 2017 to December 2018) within Para sport and of PNZ including the success of New Zealand Paralympians at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.

The New Zealand Paralympic Team of 3 Paralympians and 7 support staff that competed in PyeongChang 2018 once again proved how New Zealand punches above its weight on the world’s biggest sporting stage. The performances of Adam Hall, Corey Peters and Carl Murphy were exceptional. New Zealand won a total of 3 medals – 1 gold and 2 bronze and achieved four top 10 finishes. These performances exceeded the medal target, placing the country 16th on the overall medal table and 6th in the world for medals won per capita.

In a landmark moment for Para sport in New Zealand, at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, Para alpine skier Adam Hall won the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award. This award is presented at the Paralympic Games to one male and one female athlete who each “best exemplify the spirit of the Games and inspire and excite the world“. PNZ was thrilled that this award was bestowed upon Hall and is a testament to Hall and his performance both on and off the field of play.

New Zealand Para athletes have continued to perform with distinction both domestically and internationally and PNZ congratulates each and every Para athlete and their support teams on their sporting success.

Dr Selwyn Maister (Chair) took the opportunity to thank PNZ Member organisations for their ongoing commitment to the growth of Para sport. As experts in their fields, PNZ knows that collaboration is a must for Para sport to flourish. He continued thanking PNZ commercial partners for their passion and support. It is through these partnerships that PNZ continues to enhance its position as a global leader in Para sport whilst also contributing to a more diverse and inclusive New Zealand.

Annual Report and Financial Statements 2018 can be found here on this link.

About the Board

The PNZ Board membership comprises a President and five members elected by the membership. Following today’s Annual General Meeting, the Paralympics New Zealand board comprises President Dr. Selwyn Maister QSM (Chair), Mr Duane Kale ONZM (current IPC Vice President), Mr Clive Power, Ms Catriona McBean, Ms Jana Rangooni, Mrs Jane Cotter, Mr Andre Lubbe and Ms Mary Fisher MNZM.

The Paralympics New Zealand board is a volunteer body and members are limited to 5 elected, 2 appointed, any current IPC governing Board member who is residing in New Zealand (by invitation of the Board) and 1 co-opted Board members for a term of 4 years from the date of their appointment or the date from which their election is notified.

Board members seeking election or appointment may be nominated by PNZ Members or appointed via public applications. The Board Appointments Panel is made up of Dr. Selwyn Maister, Mark Copeland and Marc Frewin who review all nominations and applications.

PNZ Order of Merit recipients can be found here on this link. This is currently an exclusive group of 18 members. No more than 25 living persons may be awarded the PNZ Order of Merit at any one time.

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