Rio 2016 and London 2012 Paralympic Games gold medallist Mary Fisher has today announced she will be retiring from the sport of Para swimming to focus on further adventures. Fisher’s breakout performance came at the London 2012 Paralympic Games; setting a world record and winning 4 medals - gold, 2 silver and a bronze. She then went on to set another world record and win gold in Rio 2016.
This stellar career began quietly at the age of nine when Fisher first took up competitive swimming in Upper Hutt. She enjoyed the independence that the water and sport gave her. She made her international debut in Australia in 2007 and this was followed by a plethora of World and Pan Pacific Championship medals.
The Wellington-based Paralympian who has trained twice daily for over 10 years has also followed passions outside of the pool. Fisher is well known for her work as an advocate around disability and environmental issues, and for her support of developing Para swimmers and mentoring of youth with vision impairment and their families. She is now a part-time Volunteer & Recreation Coordinator at the Blind Foundation. Distance study through Massey University enabled her to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree supported by a High Performance Sport New Zealand (HPSNZ) Prime Minister’s Scholarship. Fisher is currently undertaking postgraduate psychology papers and learning Te Reo Māori and enjoys community music and is a regular with the Glamaphones and Wellington Community Choir.
Fisher said: “My dream goal as a nine-year-old was to represent New Zealand at the Paralympics. Competing in high performance Para swimming means relentless training which I’ve loved and wholeheartedly committed to. It also needs immaculate dedication and an internal spark to ensure every decision will have the best performance outcome. Racing at multiple Games, sharing the highs and lows with teammates and gaining understanding of my mind and body has given me perspective on life that I never expected. I’m fully content with my swimming career. But eking hundredths of a second from a race isn’t enjoyable or satisfying anymore. I thrive on researching each component of a situation, so I’ve taken time in making sure stepping away from racing is the right decision. But I’ll always be a swimmer of some description. I think being around water, listening to the ambitions and challenges young people tell me of, exploring Aotearoa and what it means to be Kiwi will be constants throughout my life.”
Fisher recently competed at the Swimming New Zealand Short Course Championships and was excited by the calibre and number of Para swimmers at the event. She said: “London epitomised my childhood dream. Support from thousands got me there, especially my family and friends who I thank from the bottom of my heart. The privilege and honour of representing my country for over a decade isn’t lost on me. Everyone deserves equitable opportunities. I’m keen to be part of melting the stigma attached to many forms of disability. Meeting people who get involved in Para sport and the resulting improvement in holistic health for themselves, their whānau and community is wonderful. I’ll be watching emerging athletes in these exciting times for New Zealand’s Para sport scene. ”
Malcolm Humm (High Performance Director, Paralympics New Zealand) said: “We have been working with Mary for quite some time to support her with this difficult decision and seeking to assist Mary in looking at what comes next. Mary is an incredible person and an amazing Paralympian. We thank Mary for all of her inspirational performances and ongoing professionalism both within and out of Para swimming. We look forward to seeking ways of continuing to involve Mary within the Paralympic Family and wish her all the best for her future endeavours.”
Fisher was a key member of the New Zealand Paralympic Team that produced performances in Rio making it the country’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. 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.
Photo credit - Mary Fisher at Rio 2016 Paralympic Games - Getty Images