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Paralympian Profile

Cameron Leslie MNZM #164

Cameron smiles as he wears a korowai Māori cloak with white feathers along his shoulders

Cameron Leslie is a Paralympic swimmer and a Wheel Black. He is the world record holder and three-time Paralympic gold medallist in the Men’s Individual Medley 150m SM4.

Born and raised in Whangarei, Leslie took up swimming aged 11 but after he was soundly beaten on his debut appearance at the 2006 IPC Swimming World Championships he admits he “nearly gave the sport away“ only to be persuaded to carry on by his parents. It proved an inspired decision as Cameron relocated to Auckland to hook up with a new coach, Simon Mayne, and the pair opted to try an new event – the Men’s 150m Individual Medley SM4.

In their first full year together, Cameron blitzed to “a shock“ gold medal in a world record time in their new event at the Beijing 2008 Paralympics – a feat he was to repeat at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

With a gold medal and world record at the Rio 2016 Paralympics, Cameron’s exceptional performance shone among a stand-out team of 31 Paralympians. The New Zealand Paralympic Team secured a stunning 21 medals across 12 individual medallists (nine gold, five silver and seven bronze). The Team ranked first in the world per capita and 13th in the world overall.

Selected to the Paralympic Team for Tokyo 2020, Cameron had to withdraw. His second child was due, and with COVID restrictions in place, he wouldn’t be able to return home quickly if he was needed.

Cameron breaks his own world record in the 2022 World Championships

In 2022, Cameron showed that he had no intentions of slowing down, however, as he won a gold and three silver medals at the World Para Swimming Championships in Madeira. He also set a new world record, though this was later beaten by another competitor.

He followed this up with 4 medals in the 2023 World Para Swimming Championships, despite being ill in the build-up to the event. His medals included gold in the 50m Backstroke S4.

Cameron’s first got involved in wheelchair rugby following a Have a Go Day in 2007 and so loved “the energy“ of the sport he started training twice a week with the Auckland team before later graduating to the Wheel Blacks.

The Wheel Blacks take on Japan in the 2022 World Championships

He insists the pros outweigh the cons of training across in two sports and believes Wheelchair rugby can complement his swimming training.

Cameron works with up-and-coming swimmers, like Ian Winson, to help them with their transition onto higher honours. Cameron is also a co-founding member of the Wheel Blacks’ unofficial ‘Tea Club’ – a light-hearted club for team members who appreciate a good cup of tea.

Cameron is also now the Disability and Para Swimming Participation Manager for Swimming New Zealand. He supports 172 clubs to foster, develop and grow Para swimming to ensure a continuous stream of Para swimmers achieving on the world stage.

Cameron Leslie officially received his ‘numbered’ Paralympic pin as part of The Celebration Project in Whangarei in May 2019. He was a Halberg Award winner in 2024, and was nominated among only 6 Para athletes globally for a Laureus Award in 2023.

Paralympic Results
Paralympic GamesResult
Rio 2016 Paralympic Games
  • Gold and World Record – Men’s 150m IM SM4

  • 8th - Men’s 200m Freestyle S5

  • 8th – Men’s 50m Backstroke S5

London 2012 Paralympic Games
  • Gold and World Record - Men's 150m Individual Medley SM4

Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games
  • Gold and World Record - Men's 150m Individual Medley SM4

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    Profile

    • Hometown: Whangarei

    • Born: 17 January 1990

    • Iwi: Ngāpuhi

    • Eligible Impairment: Limb deficiency

    • Health Condition: Quadruple dysmelia (congenital loss of limb)

    • Coach: Tom Onley

    • Classification: Para swimming - S4, SB4 and SM4 Wheelchair Rugby - 3.0

    • Games Year: Paris 2024, Rio 2016, London 2012, Beijing 2008

    • Medals Won: 3 Gold

    • Para Sport: Para swimming

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