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News posted on Friday 23rd August, 2019

Paralympics New Zealand kicks off ‘1 year to go’ to Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at 6th annual Adecco New Zealand Prime Minister’s Dinner

Group of Paralympians Para athletes and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

This evening Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) started New Zealand’s ‘1 year to go’ to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games celebrations lead by 13 Paralympians and Para athletes aiming for selection to the New Zealand Paralympic Team to take on the world at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. They were joined by 160 guests who came together for PNZ’s 6th annual Adecco New Zealand Prime Minister’s Dinner at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.

The Adecco New Zealand Prime Minister’s Dinner is the first of 2 key celebrations taking place over 2  days acknowledging this milestone. Tomorrow will see PNZ launch the first ever Para Sport Pop Up in at the Viaduct, Auckland where Paralympians and Para athletes will be joined by local school children and media to celebrate this innovative initiative. The Para Sport Pop Up tells the story of New Zealand’s Paralympic history through displays and video; promotes Para sport and disability through interactive ‘have a go’ experiences and; provides Para sport resources and connections to local Para sport providers. Over the next 12 months the Para Sport Pop Up will then travel around the country in the lead up to Tokyo 2020, alongside PNZ’s Celebration Project community events.

Paralympian #164 Cameron Leslie, 3x gold medallist (Rio 2016, London 2012, Beijing 2008), gave an official address. In it, he recalled his journey and the incredible support he has had throughout his life to become a Paralympian and compete at 3 consecutive Paralympic Games. He said: “The 1 year to go milestone is always exciting because it’s when those long term plans start to come to fruition. It’s a feeling I’ve had before but look forward to as we lead into what I hope to be my fourth Paralympic Games.“

He continued: “Through Para sport I have had unique opportunities which have played a massive role in my life. Things like balancing life as an athlete, being a new father and working for Swimming New Zealand are what I enjoy. I’m excited to see what the future holds across all aspects of my life – sport, work and family.“

Dr. Selwyn Maister (Chair, Paralympics New Zealand and Olympian #236) said: “With just over 365 days to go until the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games we believe our Paralympians and Para athletes through their hard work, determination and success will continue to change perceptions of disability and promote diversity and inclusion within New Zealand society. We are anticipating the New Zealand Paralympic Team will including 30 – 45 Para athletes likely to compete in up to 10 Para sports. This is such an exciting time and I wish all New Zealand Paralympians and Para athletes all the best in their bid for nomination and selection over the coming 12 months.“

Mike Davies (Managing Director, Adecco New Zealand) said: “As always it’s an absolute privilege for Adecco to be able to support Paralympics New Zealand. An evening spent with the athletes never fails to humble and inspire us, they continue to contribute a massive amount not only to the sport but the makeup of this country, particularly changing how Kiwi’s see disability and diversity.

Paralympians attending the event included:

  • Paralympian #194 Emma Foy, experienced her first Paralympic Games in Rio 2016 winning two medals in Para cycling. This year, Emma was paired with sighted pilot Paralympian #209 Hannah van Kampen and together at the UCI Para Cycling Track World Championships, they became World Champions and set the fastest time recorded at sea level in the Women’s 3km Individual Pursuit.
  • Paralympian #148 Michael Johnson has represented New Zealand at a staggering 4 Paralympic Games winning 3 medals in Shooting Para sport. Along with coaching many Para athletes himself, he has his sights set on competing at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
  • Paralympian #205 Jesse Reynolds competed in his first Paralympic Games at the Rio 2016. Jesse is currently focussed on competing at the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships in London in just 3 weeks time.
  • At just 15 years of age Paralympian #201 Tupou Neiufi made her Paralympic debut in fantastic style placing 7th in the Women’s 100m Backstroke at Rio 2016. A few months ago she set a new world record and is now focusses on selection for Tokyo 2020.
  • Paralympian #164 Cameron Leslie winner of 3 back-to-back gold medals across Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016. Cameron is also a member of the Wheel Blacks wheelchair rugby team.
  • Paralympian #195 Anna Grimaldi and #208 William Stedman. They both made an outstanding Paralympic debut in Rio in 2016. William won two bronze medals in 400m and 800m and Anna won gold in the long jump. Both Anna and William will return to the World Para Athletics Championships for the third time, in Dubai in November.

This outstanding group of Paralympians aiming for Tokyo 2020 were thrilled to be joined by Paralympian #96 Duane Kale, 6-time Paralympic medallist, currently a PNZ Board member and Vice President of the International Paralympic Committee); Paralympian #174 Mary Fisher has won 5 Paralympic medals, a newly elected PNZ board member; and Paralympian #142 Dan Buckingham who was part of the Athens 2004 gold medal winning Wheel blacks and presenter of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games broadcast in New Zealand.

Para athletes attending the event included:

  • Nick Blincoe. After a rugby injury, Nick decided to get involved in Para sport. He tried Para cycling, and only 3 years later he made his international debut. This year, he broke a national record while competing at the UCI Para Cycling Track World Championships in the Netherlands. Welcome Nick!
  • Anna Taylor is a Para cyclist and has just returned from the 2019 UCI Para Cycling World Cup in Canada, where she won a bronze medal in the time trial, her first international medal.
  • 100m and 200m sprinter Mitch Joynt is one of a clutch of emerging Para athletes selected to compete for New Zealand at the World Para Athletics Championships in Dubai in November.
  • Para swimmer Chris Arbuthnott is part of the New Zealand Para Swimming Team about to compete at the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships in London in 3 weeks.
  • Wheelchair rugby players and members of New Zealand team, the Wheelbacks: Cody Everson and Maia Marshall-Amai. The Wheel Blacks will have a chance to qualify a Tokyo 2020 slot for NZ in September when competing in South Korea.

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