Posted on Thursday 1st June, 2023

Wheelchair rugby player Gareth Lynch was recognised on Sunday with his official numbered Paralympic pin. Gareth became New Zealand Paralympian #219 when he competed with the Wheel Blacks – our national Wheelchair rugby squad – at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

It was a moving moment for Gareth, who shared:

“Being a Paralympian is a great honour. I feel privileged that I have had the opportunity to represent our nation at the highest level of competition.”

When Gareth competed in Tokyo, New Zealand had not been represented in Wheelchair rugby at the Paralympics since 2008. The Wheel Blacks finished 8th in Tokyo, and now have their sights set on Paris 2024.

Wheelchair rugby is a fast-paced, full contact sport which combines elements of many sports, including basketball, rugby, and ice hockey. It is open to athletes with disabilities that include at least some loss of function in at least three limbs. In 2016, Gareth had an accident diving into a swimming pool that resulted in a C5 – C6 level spinal cord injury from which he has loss of power in his limbs.

Gareth continues to be an ardent Wheelchair rugby player and was part of the squad who travelled to Denmark to compete at the World Championships in late 2022. He is currently competing with the Wheel Blacks in the Australian Wheelchair Rugby National Championships. When not playing Wheelchair rugby, Gareth works as a Water Resources Engineer in Auckland.

International Paralympic Committee Vice President and interim Paralympics New Zealand CE Duane Kale presented Gareth’s Paralympic pin. The moving ceremony took place at the first camp of the Para Sport Collective in Auckland. The audience, pre-high performance Para athletes and their coaches, were galvanised to see the Paralympian recognised.

This suited Gareth’s goals perfectly:

“I hope to be able to inspire future Paralympians to take up the awesome sport of Wheelchair rugby. The opportunities I’ve experienced are life changing.”

About Paralympic numbers and pins

An official numbered pin is presented to every individual who represents New Zealand at the Paralympic Games. A Paralympian receives their number once they have competed at their first Paralympic Games. PNZ first introduced the numbers in 2019 to give official recognition to Paralympians who had represented New Zealand.