South Islanders will get their first opportunity to attend an ACC Paralympics New Zealand Open Day, when the series comes to Cowles Stadium in Christchurch on Saturday 18 February 2017.
The event will be the third of its kind to be held since the end of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games this past September, which saw the New Zealand Paralympic Team return triumphant, with 21 medals. The first Open Day took place in Auckland on 21 October, with the second event in Cambridge on 5 November.
The ACC Paralympics New Zealand Open Days have been developed and jointly staged by Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) and its major partner ACC. The Open Days are designed to increase interest and participation in community sport activities run by Parafeds, National Sports Organisations and disability sport organisations. It also gives Paralympics New Zealand the opportunity to spot talent that could move into a pathway focussed on developing future Paralympians.
Five of New Zealand’s Rio 2016 Paralympians are supporting the event in Christchurch, including three Cantabrians. Triple Paralympian, Para sailor Andrew May (Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and Rio 2016) will return for the event in his home town and will be joined by double bronze medallist, 17-year-old sprint sensation William Stedman and Rio 2016 debutant, javelin thrower Caitlin Dore. This trio will be accompanied by Rio 2016 silver and bronze medallists, tandem Para cycling pairing of Emma Foy from Dargaville and Laura Thompson from the Catlins.
The Paralympians are encouraging disabled people and their families and friends, to come along to this free event. People can try various Para sports and find out about sporting opportunities in the local community. The event is also a chance for fans to get up close and meet New Zealand’s Paralympic heroes.
Adele Blackwood, ACC Injury Prevention Portfolio Manager, Communities said, “There has been a great response to the two previous Open Days, with hundreds of people coming along to learn about Para sport in their local region. One child said it was the best day of his life, and I’ve seen families and people of all ages enjoy hours of activities at the events. ACC cares about all people having the opportunity to lead healthy, active lives – so we are proud to partner with PNZ to bring these free events to communities. I would encourage you to come along to learn about how you can get involved in Para sport.”
The Open Days follow on from New Zealand’s most successful Paralympic Games ever. The New Zealand Paralympic Team secured a stunning 21 medals across 12 individual medallists – 9 gold, 5 silver and 7 bronze – beating its pre-Games target of 18 by 3. Overall, the Team placed 13 out of 159 on the medal table, its highest placing ever, and defended its title of number 1 in the world for medals per capita won during London 2012.
Canterbury’s most celebrated Paralympian, 15-time gold and silver medallist Sophie Pascoe, will be providing her support from afar, regretfully missing the event as she attends the Laureus World Sports Awards in Monaco, as New Zealand’s only athlete to be nominated for these prestigious awards. Sophie was announced just two weeks ago, in the category of Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability, after she swam to three gold and two silver medals in Rio. Following her involvement in the Auckland event, Sophie said: “Attending an ACC Paralympics New Zealand Open Day is a fantastic way for disabled people to find out what opportunities they might have in their region, whether they are looking for social sport or even looking to the Paralympics one day. I know myself that getting involved at age 7, set me on my way.”
Malcolm Humm, High Performance Director at Paralympics New Zealand said: “We had an exceptional Rio 2016 Paralympic Games and are now looking forward to PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games and beyond that, to Tokyo 2020. However, the kind of success we had in Rio does not happen overnight. The ACC Paralympics New Zealand Open Days will have two objectives: firstly, to help disabled people discover the joy of local community sport, regardless of whether they have Paralympic ambitions. Secondly, we will certainly be looking for those that display strong competitive potential.”
Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) and ACC, with PNZ preferred equipment supplier Invacare are proud to bring these free, fun and interactive Open Days to the South Island. PNZ’s preferred equipment supplier Invacare and several other providers, including local Parafeds and National Sports Organisations, will be on-site to showcase opportunities for disabled people. PNZ classifiers and high performance team members will also be there working with participants to explore their physical capabilities and interest in the various Para sports available.