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Published on 18-Nov-2015

NZ Para-Shooter has award in his sights

Michael Johnson (43) is one of the sharpest shooters in New Zealand.

This year alone the Waiuku Paralympian has achieved phenomenal results on the world stage, winning six Gold medals at IPC Shooting World Cup events and setting a new world record for the R4 10m Air Rifle event.

To add to these achievements, Mike is a finalist in the Sport Performer category in the 2015 Attitude Awards. The national awards celebrate the excellence and achievements of Kiwis with a disability.

Mike was 22-years-old when he was in a motor accident which left him with tetraplegia (paralysis of the limbs and torso). He took up target shooting as a hobby a few years later, although it didn’t stay just a hobby for long.

Pretty soon he began competing internationally and won his first Gold medal at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games for the R4 Mixed Air Rifle Standing SH2 event – posting a new world record and becoming the first athlete to ever post a perfect score in this event. The medals kept flowing as Mike landed world titles in 2006, 2010 and claimed back-to-back Bronze medals at the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Para-Shooting has two sport classes for athletes with an impairment of the lower limbs. The SH2 sport class which Mike competes in is for rifle shooters with a more severe impairment including the upper limbs, and requires them to use a shooting stand.

Mike shoots at a target the size of an old 50 cent piece, with the bullseye the size of a fullstop.

“The great thing about shooting is it is one of the few sports which integrates both able-bodied with disability and my goal was to try and beat the able-bodied guys,” says Mike.

Mike has done just that on many occasions and has enjoyed a stellar career in the process. His next goal is to win two medals at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

“I’d really love to win a medal in both of my events,” says Mike. “Two medals would prove that I’m still capable of achieving good goals and gold will mean we did all the right things.”

Mike has been equally motivated to raise the profile of target shooting and passing on his knowledge to the next generation of shooters. He’s a former President of Parafed Auckland and remains an active coach of able-bodied and disabled shooters.

The Sport Performer Attitude Award celebrates an elite athlete with a disability who has achieved at the highest level of their sport. Mike is joined in the finalist pool by Paralympic swimmers Sophie Pascoe and Mary Fisher.

The winner will be announced at a black-tie gala on World Disability Day, December 3 at Auckland’s Viaduct Events Centre.

There are eight categories in the 2015 Attitude Awards: Courage in Sport, Spirit of Attitude, Making a Difference, Artistic Achievement, Youth, Junior, the Attitude ACC Employer Award and Sport Performer of the Year. The overall winner of the Attitude ACC Supreme Award is selected from the category winners and a People’s Choice winner and Hall of Fame inductee are also announced on the night.

Attitude Awards Trustee Dan Buckingham, a member of the elite national wheelchair rugby team the Wheel Blacks, says: “It's always an exciting time here at Attitude as we find out who the finalists are and count down to the big night. The Awards reflect what Attitude is all about – sharing stories that prove people with disabilities can overcome adversity and achieve greatness, whether that be big or small.”

“We thank our fantastic family of sponsors who allow us to present the Attitude Awards year on year. Collectively we are changing people’s view of what is achievable when someone lives with a disability.”

Dan encourages everyone to visit AttitudeLive.com in early November to see short films of the finalists and to vote for the person most deserving of the ‘People’s Choice Award’.

The Sport Performer Award is sponsored by Invacare. Geoff Purtill, Managing Director of Invacare Australasia, says Invacare is honoured to again be supporting Attitude.

“At Invacare our promise is ‘Making Life’s Experience’s Possible’. Encouraging people to participate in sports, whether they are a new participator or playing at an international level, helps fulfil this promise that we have made to the community,” he says.

All three finalists have very distinguished sporting careers. Their dedication and positive attitude to their chosen sport and fellow aspiring athletes epitomises the Invacare company values of integrity, excellence, leadership and accountability.”

Other Sponsors supporting the Awards include ACC, Drake Medox, Westpac, Ministry of Health, Barfoot & Thompson, IHC Foundation, Air New Zealand, Lion Foundation and the Wayne Francis Charitable Trust.

Chief Executive of ACC Scott Pickering says ACC is proud to be principal sponsor of the awards for the eighth year, including sponsorship of the Attitude ACC Employer Award and the Attitude ACC Supreme Award.

“The Attitude Awards shine a light on New Zealand’s unsung heroes. At ACC we’re delighted to support the Awards and to acknowledge New Zealanders who live life to the fullest, achieve their goals and provide role models to our community.”

For tickets to the Attitude Awards gala evening on December 3 contact Sue Wales-Earl at sue@attitudeawards.org or phone 09 378 1564.
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