Rio-bound Paralympian Kate Horan, Paralympic debutants Liam Malone and Chris Sharp and Rio 2016 Chef de Mission and Paralympian, Ben Lucas, today hope to inspire all disabled New Zealanders to always dance to their own beat. They headline a 100-strong dance troupe celebrating Carnival-style at Te Papa at midday, to mark ‘100 Days to Go’ until the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
Kate Horan (Para-Cyclist, Rio 2016; silver medallist in Para-Athletics, Beijing 2008; Para-Athletics, Athens 2004) said: “I think that one of the most exciting things about becoming a Paralympian is your ability to influence community perceptions about disability. We want to show people that it’s not about what you can’t do, it’s about what you can do. New Zealanders can look forward to the most extensive live and free-to-air coverage of a Paralympic Games in just 100 days time, it’s a huge opportunity to demonstrate that there is power in being unique and that its ok to dance to your own beat, as the saying goes!”
She continues: “Today is an exciting landmark for all Paralympians as we continue along our road to Rio 2016 and it’s so cool that we have 100 kids today here to help us mark 100 days to go, Carnival-style. I am looking forward to Rio and preparing as best I can. To compete at my third Paralympic Games is such an honour. I have high aims for Rio, I definitely want to podium and to win gold!”
Led by flamboyant Brazilian percussion and dance group, Wellington’s Batucada, the foursome and 100 local school children from Wellington will learn and perform a specially-choreographed Samba designed to be danced by all dancers. The party will begin at midday with a welcome by the Chief Executive of Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ), the Brazilian Ambassador to New Zealand, plus a few words from PNZ Major Partner, ACC, also a presenting partner of the TV broadcast. The atrium will then fill with colour and sound as the performance tops off a celebration of all things Paralympic related, following the exhibition of the Spirit of Gold® Portrait Collection at Te Papa this past week.
Ben Lucas (Rio 2016 Chef de Mission) said: “With only 100 days left before the Opening Ceremony of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games on 7 September, Paralympics New Zealand really wanted to celebrate our Paralympians in a uniquely Brazilian way today. For community perceptions of disability to change, it’s really important to show that our Paralympians are real people, who can laugh and muck about, but who are just as ambitious and train just as hard any other elite sportsperson. Like a lot of men I know, I tend to sit out the dancing - but today, I’ll be taking my chair for a spin!”
He continues: “While today is a bit of fun, in the background Paralympics New Zealand is completely focussed on creating a high performance team environment in Rio to provide the best opportunity possible for our Paralympians to win medals. We have agreed a lofty goal of 18 medals, including 12 gold, in consultation with High Performance Sport New Zealand and we aim to retain our London 2012 title of number one in the world per capita for medals won. I will be focussing on creating a physical environment and team culture that is comfortable, yet fit for the purpose of winning medals.”
To date, 24 Para-Athletes have been selected to the New Zealand Paralympic Team across Para-Cycling, Para-Athletics, Para-Sailing and Para-Swimming, with further selections pending for up to another two Para-Sports expected to take the team to 25-35 Para-Athletes in total. Kate Horan will be a leading medal hope amongst the seven-strong Para-Cycling team, which also features triple World Champions (2014-16), Emma Foy and Laura Thompson. Liam Malone, affectionately known as “New Zealand’s blade runner”, will take to the running track as part of a six-person Para-Athletics team, headlined by London 2012 javelin-thrower Holly Robinson and Beijing 2008 Paralympian, shot-putter Jessica Hamill. Chris Sharp, debuting in his first Paralympic Games, was selected in the 3-person keelboat event (Sonar) along with former America’s Cup sailor and multiple World Champion, Rick Dodson and Paralympian, Andrew May. In addition, the Para-Swimming team has also been announced, led by Paralympic gold medallists Sophie Pascoe, Mary Fisher and Cameron Leslie, with the recent addition of Hamish McLean taking the team to eight in total. The Para-Swimmers are not at the ‘100 days to go’ celebration due to a month-long training and competition schedule in Europe.
The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, which begin exactly 2.5 weeks after the end of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and take place in the exact same location and venues, will run from 7-18 September 2016. The Games are the world’s largest multi-sport event for disabled athletes; over 4,350 athletes from 178 countries are expected to compete in 22 sports, with 526 medal events taking place.
The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games will be broadcast in New Zealand. Viewers can catch the action as it happens every day on TVNZ’s fully live streamed TV channel DUKE, together with extensive delayed and highlights coverage. Along with ONE News coverage, a special highlights programme will air every night on TV ONE and will be available online through TVNZ OnDemand and AttitudeLive.com.
Fiona Allan (Chief Executive, Paralympics New Zealand) said, “The performance of Para-Athletes throughout the world has taken a meteoric rise since the London 2012 Paralympic Games and we are expecting to see outstanding performances during the Games. The New Zealand public will have an unprecedented opportunity to share in the success of the New Zealand Paralympic Team thanks to the outstanding commitment of TVNZ, Attitude Pictures, NZ On Air and especially our Major Partner, ACC, which has become a broadcast partner for the Games to help showcase our achievements.”
Liam Malone (currently ranked first in the world in the T43/44 200m and 400m and second in the 100m event) said: "I am grateful for the opportunity to represent New Zealand on the world stage. Along the way there have been many set backs but I have always been confident that I would make selection when the time came. The next 100 days are incredibly important, there are many things I need to work on including fixing my blades which are currently broken in order to win gold. I would like to thank my friends, family and the New Zealand people who provided the initial funding that made this journey possible."
Chris Sharp (Para-Sailor) said: “It’s a bit surreal to think we have already reached the 100 days to go mark. Our competition boat has already been sent over to Brazil and Andrew, Rick and myself will be following it shortly to begin training in the South American climate. At the moment, I have my head down in full scale gym and on-water training, we’re averaging about 4 hours a day, 7 days a week with logistics planning study and fundraising making up the rest of my week. As we see it, we have one shot at this and we’ll be throwing everything we have at medalling in Rio.”
Malcolm Humm (High Performance Director, Paralympics New Zealand) believes the signs are very positive leading into Rio. “To get to this point we have created a Talent Identification programme that has been very strategic in targeting athletes in individual sports with multiple medals available,” he explains. “We are now seeing Para-Athletes winning World titles and Paralympic gold medals who have come through this system like Para-Cyclist Emma Foy and Para-Swimmer Mary Fisher.” He continues, “We are tracking well and based on the current data we think we can achieve our goal of 12 gold medals in Rio 2016. If the Paralympics were tomorrow, I’d probably be a very happy man!”
The nightly highlights programme on TV ONE will be produced by Attitude Pictures, whose production team includes three Paralympic gold medalists. Producer and New Zealand 'Wheel Black' Dan Buckingham says, "It's been a privilege filming build up footage with Para-Athletes for the nightly highlights programmes as they prepare for the Games. From what we’ve seen there’s going to be some exceptional performances in Rio from some great Kiwis who will be waving the flag high and proud for all New Zealanders.”
Alex Baumann (CEO, High Performance Sport New Zealand) said, “Today marks a significant milestone in the build-up to the 2016 Paralympic Games. With only 100 days until the Opening Ceremony, the countdown for our athletes, coaches and support teams has well and truly begun. As the momentum builds and the focus towards Rio intensifies, we continue to track well and while the high performance environment is unpredictable, we are confident in the quality and depth of the Paralympic team selected to date”.
Emma Powell, ACC’s Head of Injury Prevention Partnerships and Delivery, says the remarkable achievements of our Paralympians over the past few Paralympic Games and the more recent World Championships have been outstanding.
“As a major partner of Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ), ACC is proud to be supporting the team and to encourage and promote social change for the 1.1 million New Zealanders living with a disability.”