Paralympic and World Champion Para cyclists celebrated
Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) celebrated along with many Para cyclists, support staff, guests from Cycling New Zealand and the Avantidrome the unveiling of the Para Cycling Walk of Champions at the Avantidrome in Cambridge.
The Para Cycling Walk of Champions is a celebration of the incredible achievements of New Zealand’s Para Cycling World Champions and Paralympic gold medallists. Collectively their achievements span 22 years and include 14 World Championship titles and 2 Paralympic gold medals won by an incredible 9 Para cyclists.
The Walk of Champions wall that extends from the inside of the Avantidrome via a tunnel to the infield. It sits proudly across the tunnel from a similar wall that celebrates Olympic medallists and World Champions. This route is travelled daily by all athletes that train at the Avantidrome – be they Paralympic champions or users getting active.
Para cyclist Nicole Murray spoke about the importance of today’s unveiling to all Para cyclists: “To have the plaques of the Para cyclists who have medalled in the past along the Walk of Champions right next to their able bodied counterparts is the most validating thing to see. It embodies the positive direction that people behind the scenes are working to take Para sport towards. I’m very proud to be a part of this significant moment in New Zealand’s Para cycling history.“
Fiona Allan (Chief Executive, PNZ) said: “The 10 Para cyclists celebrated here today for their achievements at a Paralympic Games or World Championships are incredible athletes and individuals who have been the best in the world in their chosen sport. It is critical that we celebrate their achievements and share these with all New Zealanders.“
She continued: “Para athletes and Paralympians are sporting heroes and they inspire future Paralympians to be the best they can be and build on their success. Further to this, through the power of sport they positively influence community perceptions of disabled people and promote a more diverse and inclusive society.“
Jacques Landry (Chief Executive Officer, Cycling New Zealand) said: “With the addition of recognising our Para cycling champions, the Walk of Fame takes on more completeness. This wall is a celebration of excellence and reflects determination, dedication and sheer will power to overcome all obstacles and be the best. It is very fitting that both able-boded and Para cycling champions now feature through this tunnel. We look forward to the continued performances of all New Zealand cyclists and with predicted gold medal performances over the next 4 to 8 years their achievements outgrowing the current tunnel.“
Scott Gemmill (General Manager, Avantidrome) said: “The PNZ installation at the Home of Cycling is a point of pride. As athletes walk through the tunnel to the track infield they will pass images of champion cyclists that have been so instrumental in creating a legacy of excellence in New Zealand. The installation will no doubt be a point of distinction and inspiration of the many people that visit the Home of Cycling.“
The Para Cycling Walk of Champions begins in chronological order of achievement with a plaque dedicated to Paralympian #125 Paul Jesson. Jesson won New Zealand’s first ever World Championship titles in 1998 at the IPC World Para Cycling World Championships – 2 titles at one event. These titles and gold medals were won Men’s 4000m Paralympic Pursuit LC3 and 18km Time Trial LC3. Prior to a serious crash that resulted in an amputation Jesson was a professional racing cyclist. Jesson became the first New Zealander to win a stage at a grand tour of the 1980 Vuelta a España.
Jesson’s first professional race for Splendor was the 1979 Tour de France. This occurred because his team did not have enough riders to start.
The next 3 plaques celebrate the first ever NZ Paralympic gold medal won in Para cycling by Paula Tesoriero at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games. Tesoriero won a gold and two bronze medals at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, as well as winning 2 World Championships titles in 2009. Tesoriero is currently the New Zealand Disability Rights Commissioner and has a rich understanding of issues affecting disabled New Zealanders, including stigma and attitudes. She is passionate about the Paralympic Movement and its ability to change perceptions and transform society. In 2019, Paralympian Paula Tesoriero MNZM was appointed Chef de Mission to lead the New Zealand Paralympic Team at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
The 6th plaque celebrates Jayne Parsons and Sonia Waddell (sighted pilot) who won their World Championship title at the 2011 UCI Para Cycling Track World Championships in the Women’s B Tandem Individual Pursuit.
This is followed by the gold medal performance of Phillipa Gray and Laura Thompson (sighted pilot) at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. This performance created a new world record. Gray and Thompson added a silver and bronze medal to their achievements in London 2012.
Thompson went on to join visually impaired Para cyclist Emma Foy and the pairing won 3 UCI Track World Championship titles in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
2014 saw Tim Williams win the Men’s H1 Individual Time Trial title at the UCI Para Cycling Road World Championships in USA.
Following Thompson’s retirement Foy joined forces with sighted pilot Hannah van Kampen. Like Foy and Thompson they also won a staggering 3 UCI Para Cycling World Championships titles including 2 on the track and 1 on the road during 2019 and 2020.
2019 was an incredible year for the New Zealand Para Cycling Team as together they won 3 World Championship titles at the UCI Para Cycling Road World Championships. 2 of these hard fought for titles were won by Eltje Malzbender in the Women’s T1 Individual Time Trial and Road Race.