Posted on Friday 25th October, 2019

On 23 October in Bonn, Germany Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) and members of the international Paralympic family celebrated 2 New Zealand Paralympians with a special addition to the Celebration Project. The Celebration Project includes 12 community events organised in New Zealand in the lead up to Tokyo 2020. At these events the achievements of many of New Zealand’s 209 Paralympians since Tel Aviv 1968 are officially recognised and celebrated.

In Bonn, Paralympian number 96, IPC Vice President and former Chef de Mission Duane Kale; and Paralympian number 147 and IPC Competitions Manager Miriam Sheppard, friends and over 30 members of the international Paralympic family came together at the head office of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and 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. 

Selwyn Maister (Chair, PNZ) said: “We were privileged to have 2 wonderful Paralympians and their friends and many members of the international Paralympic family with us to celebrate Paralympian number 96 Duane Kale and Paralympian number 147 Miriam Sheppard. Duane and Miriam represent New Zealand Paralympic Teams that span 2 decades including Atlanta 1996 and Athens 2004.”

Kale and Sheppard joined a group of 61 Paralympians that have now received their official ‘numbered’ Paralympic pin and certificate. 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.

PNZ has now staged 5 community events in New Zealand (Auckland, Whangarei, Hamilton, Tauranga and New Plymouth) and will stage a further 7 community events around the country including an event in Palmerston North this week, within the communities that have so openly supported their Paralympic heroes over the past 51 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 #96 Duane Kale

Raised in the sunny Hawkes Bay in New Zealand, Duane was an able bodied, competitive triathlete, until 1990 when his life changed. Having had a fall off his bike during a training session, he was put on heavy pain medication and advised to rest. 18 months later a neurosurgeon recognised that something was medically amiss and found a benign spinal tumour in his back. At 22 years of age, an operation to remove the tumour resulted in partial paralysis. 

Not one to dwell on things or have a negative mind set, Duane channelled his focus towards the freedom of movement that swimming provided. He found a coach, established a swimming programme and set some goals. Incredibly, he made his Paralympic Games debut just five years later – competing at the Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Games where he won a staggering four gold medals, a silver and a bronze. 

Retiring as a Paralympic athlete following the Atlanta 1996 Paralympics he carried on his passion, going on to be Team Manager at the Sydney 2000 Paralympics Games and Chef de Mission for the New Zealand Paralympic Team at the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Paralympics. 

In 2013, he was elected to the IPC Governing Board and in 2017 was unanimously elected as Vice President, helping to lead the global governing body of the Paralympic Movement to drive social change through the inspirational performances of Para athletes internationally. 

He continues his national involvement today as a board member of Paralympics New Zealand. 

And if all that wasn’t enough, he was appointed by the International Olympic Committee to the Evaluation Commission for the 2024 Paralympic and Olympic Games, one of just 14 people worldwide to be appointed on the commission. 

Somehow, he also finds the time to work in a senior management position for ANZ Banking Group in Wellington as well as being a wonderful husband and father to his two children. He is an inspiring mentor to Para athletes of the future.

Paralympian #147 Miriam Sheppard (nee Jenkins) 

Miriam was named to be part of the Paralympics New Zealand team to compete at the Paralympic Games in Athens in 2004. Miriam placed sixth in her heat of the S9 Women’s 400m freestyle.

The following year, she won titles at the CP-ISRA World Championships in Connecticut, in the 100m freestyle, 400m freestyle and 200m individual medley, as well as the 800m track race. 

She first competed in triathlon while in high school. In 2009 she was one of the first New Zealanders to be selected to compete at Para triathlon World Championships, where she won gold. She also won bronze at Worlds in 2012.

Miriam worked at the Department of Conservation in Aoraki Mount Cook before taking a position at IPC in August 2019.