Posted on Thursday 24th September, 2020

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

In Queenstown, 4 New Zealand Paralympians, their families and friends, Snow Sports NZ and PNZ commercial partners came together at GWD Motors, Queenstown. 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 joined a group of 85 Paralympians that have now received their official ‘numbered’ Paralympic pin and certificate following the Celebration Project events in Auckland, Whangarei, Hamilton, Tauranga, New Plymouth, Palmerston North and North Shore, Auckland during 2019/2020. Eight of these Paralympians were also celebrated with family and friends when PNZ also took The Celebration Project ‘on the road’ this year visiting Paralympians across Northland, Auckland and Waikato to celebrate these incredible role models with their family and friends.  These special moments will be shared across PNZ social media channels over the coming weeks.

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.

Selwyn Maister (Chair, PNZ) said: “We were privileged to have 4 wonderful Paralympians and their families, friends and supporters, representing New Zealand Paralympic Teams from Lillehammer 1994 to PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games come together in Queenstown. From Paralympian number 85 Mathew Butson who competed in Lillehammer 1994; and Paralympian number 188 Corey Peters who competed in Sochi 2014 and PyeongChang 2018. These 4 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.”

Anthony Field (Paralympian #157) reflects on his Paralympic debut at the Torino 2006 Paralympic Winter Games saying: “That sense of achievement getting to that level at Torino — it sinks in when you are finally there. It was an amazing experience.”

He continued: “Following my accident and growing up as a teenager, self-confidence was an issue for me like many teens, and it was amplified for me with the loss of a limb. Para alpine skiing turned out to be a big part of strengthening that self-confidence, in that I felt able to do something physical 100 percent.”  

Field now coaches both disabled and able bodied skiers at Cardrona: “That allows me to teach both adaptive and able-bodied skiers up at Cardrona — you can’t keep me out of the mountains — and I’m volunteering as a coach and mentor for some of the young Para alpine skiers coming through as well.   To be able to give back to the adaptive side of the sport and the organisation [Snow Sports NZ] that helped me to get to the Paralympics, that’s a real buzz and, talking to people in wheelchairs, the common theme is that when they get on the snow, they absolutely relish being able to suddenly go wherever they want, at whatever speed they want. I think that’s the great thing about Para alpine skiing. It truly gives people back their freedom of movement.” 

PNZ has now staged 8 events (Auckland, Whangarei, Hamilton, Tauranga, New Plymouth and Palmerston North, North Shore Auckland and Queenstown) and will stage a further 3 community events around the country, within the communities that have so openly 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.

Paralympians who attended the event included:

Paralympian #85 Mathew Butson  

Born in Invercargill and now living in Queenstown, Matt was an avid skier before his accident at age 17. The apprentice carpenter was hit by a car in Wanaka, resulting in loss of his left leg below the knee and his left arm below the elbow. Para alpine skiing was suggested to help Matt rehab from injury and move in a new direction away from carpentry. Matt made his Paralympic debut at the Lillehammer 1994 Paralympic Winter Games, along with 6 other Kiwi Para alpine skiers. 4 years later, Matt won gold and became New Zealand’s most prolific medallist at a single Paralympic Winter Games. At Nagano 1998 Paralympic Winter Games, Matt won 3 gold medals in Men’s Giant Slalom LW9, Men’s Slalom LW9 and Men’s Super-G LW9, rounding out his haul with a silver in Men’s Downhill LW1. Today, Matt still enjoys skiing and works as a property manager in Queenstown. 

Paralympian #157 Anthony Field 

Anthony lost his right arm at the age of 8 after a car crashed into him while he was playing cricket near the road. Anthony is a Para alpine skier who made his Paralympic debut at the Torino 2006 Paralympic Winter Games. Along with Paralympian #158 Adam Hall, they formed the NZ Paralympic Team in Italy. Anthony had the honour of being the NZ flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony. He competed in the Downhill, the Giant Slalom, the Super-G and the Slalom in the standing class. Anthony has also been a ski instructor at Coronet Peak and is still very involved in Para alpine skiing camps. He is a skiing role model and provides inspiration for new Para athletes showing that there is a path available to reach World Para alpine skiing competition level given the correct training, effort and attitude. Anthony lives in Wanaka and works as a ski instructor at Cardrona and a Land Surveyor. Full feature story available here.

Paralympian #158 Adam Hall MNZM  

The Dunedin-born ski champion Adam Hall is an established force on the world stage. Diagnosed at birth with spina bifida, Adam says he’s “lucky” because he is mobile and able to walk. Adam began skiing at age six and switched to snowboarding at age nine. He admits to being a snowboarder at heart but switched back to skiing in order to compete in the Paralympic Winter Games in 2006. Adam has represented New Zealand four times at the Paralympic Games in Torino 2006, Vancouver 2010, Sochi 2014 and PyeongChang 2018, taking the gold medal in standing slalom at both the PyeongChang 2018 and Vancouver 2010 Paralympics. At the 2018 PyeongChang Paralympic Games Adam received the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award, given to only two Paralympians who best embody the spirit of the Paralympic movement, and is the only New Zealander ever to have received it.  

Paralympian #188 Corey Peters  

The former Taranaki age group and development squad rugby representative’s life changed in September 2009 when he sustained a crushed spinal cord at a motocross event. Corey spent four months in the Spinal Unit learning the basics of how to live life in a wheelchair. Adjusting to a new way of life was tough but Corey remained determined to continue to live a fulfilled life. In 2011, two years after the accident, he was introduced to the sport of sit skiing. He took to the sport immediately and the same year won gold in the men’s adaptive sit-ski event at the Winter Games at Cardrona Alpine Resort in New Zealand. Corey Peter’s sporting career continues to go from strength to strength. At the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games he claimed silver and continued to prove his skill by taking bronze in the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.