Posted on Friday 12th February, 2021

Today Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) marked the 11th community event as part of The Celebration Project, where the achievements of New Zealand’s 209 Paralympians since Tel Aviv 1968 were officially recognised and celebrated.

In Dunedin, 13 New Zealand Paralympians, their families and friends and PNZ commercial partners came together at Cooke Howlison Toyota. Together they celebrated over 50 years of Paralympic history in New Zealand acknowledging the incredible 209 Paralympians that have represented New Zealand. Since 1968 New Zealand Paralympic Teams have stunned supporters and competing nations with their determination, heart and courage and ultimately, their success. Paralympians have contributed to New Zealand Paralympic Teams success by representing Kiwis with pride and dignity and bringing home a staggering 221 medals. Through this success they have inspired Kiwis to think differently about disability.

The Paralympians are now part of a group of 121 NZ Paralympians that have received their official ‘numbered’ Paralympic pin and certificate following The Celebration Project events in Auckland (x2), Whangarei, Hamilton, Tauranga, New Plymouth, Palmerston North, Queenstown, Wellington and Bonn, Germany during 2019/2020.

The official Paralympic ‘number’ is a unique number that is bestowed only once a Paralympian has competed at their first Paralympic Games. Athletes are then ordered alphabetically within each Paralympic Games.

Fiona Allan (Chief Executive, PNZ) said: “We were privileged to have 13 wonderful Paralympians and their families, friends and supporters, representing New Zealand Paralympic Teams from Tel Aviv 1968 Paralympic Games (summer) to Pyeongchang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games come together in Dunedin. From Paralympian number 7 Bill Lean who competed in 2 Paralympic Games debuting at Tel Aviv 1968 as part of the first New Zealand Paralympic Team; and Paralympian number 195 Anna Grimaldi who competed in Rio 2016. These 13 Paralympians are members of a very exclusive club of just 209 New Zealanders. They will be members forever, as once a Paralympian, always a Paralympian.”

Jenny Newstead MBE (Paralympian #81) is well known for her hugely successful Para swimming career that included winning 10 Paralympic medals across the Barcelona 1992 and Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Games. Newstead spoke about her sporting experience and the opportunities it has provided: “I was always up for a challenge to prove that people with disabilities can do anything. Through my achievements I have really enjoyed being able to inspire all people, especially children with a disability to take up sport.”

She has since become a coach and teacher in both trampoline sport and dance. Newstead said: “The thing I like best about teaching and coaching is the opportunity to continue to encourage young people – believe in your own abilities and always try and do your best. This worked for me as a Paralympian. The medals were a bonus that came from doing my best.”

Alongside the 13 Paralympians, local and long serving Para athletics coach Raylene Bates MNZM was officially presented with her PNZ Order of Merit pin after being awarded the honour at the PNZ 2020 AGM. The PNZ Order of Merit was established in 2001 and recognises individuals who have given outstanding service to PNZ or Para sport. This is an exclusive group of 29 members.

Raylene has had an amazing 40+ years of service and dedication to Paralympics New Zealand and Para athletics. She has contributed in many ways including as a competitor, administrator, official and coach in both voluntary and paid roles working with children to veterans. She has contributed at local, regional, national and international levels.

Raylene has transformed Para athletics in New Zealand. A key highlight being the results from the New Zealand Para athletes in the sport of Para athletics, led by Bates, at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in September 2016. Eight Para athletes competed in 15 events and won 9 medals, set 4 Paralympic records, 11 New Zealand records, and achieved 11 personal bests. Since 2016 Athletics New Zealand has seen a phenomenal growth in the number of Para athletes training and competing in their sport. Raylene has worked tirelessly in her roles at Athletics New Zealand to offer increased opportunities for Para athletes and integrating Para athletics into numerous training camps, national and international events.

PNZ will stage one further community event in Christchurch on 6 March 2021, within one of the communities that have so passionately supported their Paralympic heroes for over 50 years. The project has been made possible thanks to funding and support from the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board, New Zealand Chambers of Commerce and Toyota New Zealand.

Following The Celebration Project community event, the PNZ team will at the Otago Museum Reserve on Friday 12 and Saturday 13 February sharing the Para Sport Pop Up with the public and local schools.

The Para Sport Pop Up is an innovative initiative that is travelling around New Zealand in the lead up to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, telling the story of New Zealand’s Paralympic history, increasing awareness of Para sport and positively influencing community perceptions of disabled people. The Para Sport Pop Up includes a variety of Para sport activities and fun ways to show your support of the New Zealand Paralympic Team!

Paralympians who attended the event included: 

Note – Paralympians Bill Lean, Graeme Marett and Philip Read have passed away and will be represented by their families, along with Henk Dijkstra who was unable to attend and represented by his support person Paul Coffey at this community event.

Paralympian #7 Bill Lean   

Bill made his Paralympic debut in Tel Aviv 1968 Paralympic Games, as part of the first ever New Zealand Paralympic Team. He then went on to compete at the Toronto 1976 Paralympic Games where he won a gold medal in the Men’s Shot Put 4 and set a new world record. Bill also competed in Para weightlifting, discus, and javelin. Bill was selected to represent New Zealand at the Arnhem 1980 Paralympic Games where unfortunately he could not compete due to heart problems. Bill was a very talented Paralympian competing in a variety of Para sports including Para archery, Para athletics, Para lawn bowls and Para table tennis. Bill passed away in 2015 aged 73, after a short illness.   

Paralympian #8 Graeme Marett   

Graeme was also a member of New Zealand’s very first Paralympic Team competing in Tel Aviv in 1968. He went onto represent New Zealand again at the Heidelberg 1972 and the Toronto 1976 Paralympic Games. Graeme competed in Para archery, Para athletics, Para swimming and Para table tennis. He was particularly successful in Heidelberg 1972 where he won a silver medal in the discus and a bronze in the pentathlon.  

Paralympian #12 Philip Read  

Originally from Middlemarch and relocating to Mosgiel following his accident, Philip is our third member tonight of the original New Zealand Paralympic Team. In Tel Aviv, Philip competed in Para table tennis. Philip and his wife Miriam were married for 40 years – he was a step dad to 3 children, becoming a treasured grandad to 7, and then a great grandad for two boys. “Philby” was a valuable member of the Fulton Hogan office team for many years and enjoyed genealogy research and growing fruiting trees, especially mandarins on his retirement. Philip passed away in 2018 at the age of 70.   

Paralympian #35 Patricia Hill MBE     

Patricia ‘Trish’ Hill was born in 1948. At just seven years old Trish contracted polio and as a result developed paraplegia. Over the last six decades she has been one of our most successful Para athletes. Trish first took an interest in Para sport when she met Paralympian #13 Eve Rimmer. It was the start of endless wheelchair racing trainings and competitions. In 1966 she met her husband and biggest supporter Dave Hill. Trish was selected to 3 consecutive Paralympic Games: Arnhem 1980, New York and Stoke Mandeville 1984 and Seoul 1988. She won an impressive tally of 8 Paralympic medals, including 2 gold medals. In 1988, Trish became the first woman to do a marathon in a wheelchair in New Zealand. After the Seoul 1988 Paralympic Games, Trish retired, but continued to help Paralympics New Zealand. In 1992 she received the Member of the Order of the British Empire honour for her outstanding services to Paraplegics.  

Paralympian #78 Denise Gow    

Denise Gow made her Paralympic debut at the Barcelona 1992 Paralympic Games. She competed in the Women’s Discus Throw THW7 and placed 5th. She also competed in the Women’s Shot Put THW7 and placed 6th. Denise was part of a team of 13 Kiwi Paralympians who collectively won 6 medals. The following year Denise set the New Zealand Para athletics records for Shot Put – F56 with a result of 7.03m. Denise still holds this national record in 2021.   

Paralympian #81 Jenny Newstead MBE    

In 1992 Para swimmer Jenny competed in 5 events at the Paralympic Games in Barcelona and returned home with a medal from each event: 4 Gold medals and 1 silver. Following this Jenny returned to the Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Games and won another 5 medals. Winning a total of 7 Gold, 2 Silver, and 1 Bronze medals across her outstanding career competing at the Paralympic Games, Jenny definitely made New Zealand history. She has muscular dystrophy and retired from international competition in 1997 after an injury. In 2016, Jenny came out of retirement and at the age of 50, won another gold, this time in Gym sports at the Otago Community Trust New Zealand Masters Games in Dunedin, in trampoline and tumbling. She is proud of her achievements as she competed against able bodied athletes at this event. Feature story found here

Paralympian #92 Henk Dijkstra  

Henk is New Zealand’s longest-serving Boccia player, being the first New Zealand representative to compete in Boccia at the Paralympic Games in Atlanta 1996. Henk has cerebral palsy and was introduced to the sport through CCS. Henk has competed in numerous world events and 3 Paralympic Games: Atlanta 1996, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008. His top results being 5th individually at the World Cup 2003 in Christchurch, and 4th in pairs (with Paralympian #146 Greig Jackson) at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games. Henk is still competing in Boccia, fundraising to participate in New Zealand Boccia Nationals.  

Paralympian #118 Tanya Bradley   

Rotorua’s Tanya Bradley made her Para athletics international debut in 1998 in Birmingham at the IPC Athletics World Championships where she won a bronze medal in the Women’s High Jump F20. She then represented New Zealand at the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games along with 41 other Kiwi Paralympians. Tanya qualified for the Women’s 200m and 100m T20 and High Jump F20 finals, just missing out on the bronze medal. Tanya has ataxia and lives today in Invercargill. She is very motivated to help develop Para sport in her region.  

Paralympian #162 Jessica Gillan   

Jessica Gillan (nee Hamill) lives in Dunedin with her husband Dale. She has competed in Para athletics including shotput, discus and javelin since the age of 15 and has competed in international competitions since 2006. Jessica made her Paralympic debut in Beijing in 2008. After a 2-years break from competing in Para athletics Jessica had a renewed drive and passion for her sport. This led her to represent New Zealand at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games brilliantly, winning a bronze medal.   

Paralympian #183 Holly Robinson  

At the age of 10 Holly was selected in a Talent Identification programme and attended her first overseas competition when she was 12. She went to her first IPC Athletics World Championships in 2011 and the following year was selected and competed at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Holly’s second Paralympic Games experience in Rio 2016 is one she will always remember! Her dream began as she was named the Opening Ceremony flag bearer – an honour bestowed on few Kiwis. She then went on to win silver in the Women’s Javelin F46. Holly is now the world record holder for the Women’s Javelin F46 and is currently training hard with her coach Raylene Bates for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.  

Paralympian #189 Carl Murphy   

Cardrona NZ National Adaptive Snowboard Team member Carl Murphy was born with only one and a half legs but that hasn’t stopped him from getting up on a snowboard and competing at an international level. Carl represented New Zealand in Para snowboard cross at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games and achieved an impressive fourth place finish in his Paralympic debut. This made him more determined and spurred on his performances at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in South Korea. Despite not winning a medal in 2018, Carl put on a brilliant showing, pushing the world’s top ranked Para snowboarder to his limits in an electrifying race. In his spare time, Carl is an architectural designer, husband, and father.  

Paralympian #192 Caitlin Dore  

Caitlin has had a love for athletics since she was 11 years of age. Originally from Christchurch, Caitlin made the move to Dunedin in 2015 to train with head coach Raylene Bates and to study Physical Education at the University of Otago. She had always been a discus and shot putter at the time of moving to Dunedin but quickly changed to the discipline of javelin. In fact, javelin turned into her favourite event. In 2015 Caitlin was thrilled to compete in her first major international competition in Doha at the IPC Athletics World Championships. Caitlin made her Paralympic debut at the Rio 2016 Paralympics. Caitlin placed 7th in the Women’s Javelin F37.    

Paralympian #195 Anna Grimaldi 

Anna has always loved playing and competing in sport from a very young age, playing netball and basketball. She was born with an upper limb deficiency and came to the sport of Para athletics later in life. Attending a Paralympics New Zealand Talent Identification camp in Dunedin in late 2013 and has never looked back. She attended her first IPC Athletics World Championships only two years after coming into the sport. There she was standing on the podium with a bronze medal. Her Paralympic dream became a reality when she won New Zealand’s first medal at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in the Women’s Long Jump T47 – and it was gold! Anna also finished 4th in the 100m T47. She is now looking forward to continuing the Paralympic dream in Tokyo. Anna has had a great start to the year, setting a new national record in the long jump in Christchurch on Saturday.