This evening Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) marked the fourth community event as part of The Celebration Project, where over the next 12 months in the lead-up to Tokyo 2020, the achievements of New Zealand’s 209 Paralympians since Tel Aviv 1968 will be officially recognised and celebrated.
In Tauranga, 9 New Zealand Paralympians, their families and friends, PNZ commercial partners and business leaders came together at Pacific Toyota in partnership with Bay of Plenty Chamber of Commerce to celebrate 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, 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.
All 9 Paralympians were acknowledged and celebrated and joined an elite group of Paralympians that have now received their official ‘numbered’ Paralympic pin and certificate. This group now totals 55 following the Celebration Project events in Auckland, Whangarei and Hamilton. 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.
Jana Rangooni (Board member, PNZ) said: “We were privileged to have 9 wonderful Paralympians and their families, friends and supporters, from New Zealand Paralympic Teams since Tel Aviv 1968 come together in Tauranga tonight. There was Paralympian number 14 Jim Savage and Paralympian number 16 Rodney Wright who competed in the very first New Zealand Paralympic Team that competed at Tel Aviv in 1968.”
Jim Savage (Paralympian #14) talks about when he first heard about Para sport after contracting polio at the age of 22. He said: “It wasn’t until I heard about wheelchair sports that the one part of my life that had been missing for the best part of five years – playing sport – took off again. It really was a great thing, a great help to me.”
He continues: “Being with other disabled people was a great feeling and competing gave me back my confidence. It was in my blood.” Jim went on to compete at 4 Paralympic Games with 3 as the New Zealand Paralympic Team captain and winning a total of 2 bronze medals.
Jim Savage along with Ross Hynds (Paralympian #24) daughters were presented with a PNZ Order of Merit pin during the evening after the Paralympians being awarded the accolade in 2001 and 2006 respectively. The PNZ Order of Merit is awarded to an exclusive group of individuals for outstanding service to Paralympic sport.
PNZ has now staged 4 events (Auckland, Whangarei, Hamilton and Tauranga) and will stage a further 8 community events around the country, within the communities that have so openly supported their Paralympic heroes over the past 50 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 #14 Jim Savage
Former Pongakawa School pupil, diagnosed with polio in his early 20s, Jim started wheelchair sport in 1966. Jim was a member of New Zealand’s very first Paralympic Games Team competing at the Tel Aviv 1968 Paralympic Games. He went onto represent New Zealand again at 3 following Paralympic Games in Para archery, Para athletics and Para table tennis. He won 2 bronze medals in Men's Shot Put in 1972 and 1976. Jim has also been a lifelong volunteer and community servant: he taught St John’s in Kawerau, raised money for cancer charities, served as a town councillor, he was the first life member of Parafed Bay of Plenty and founded the Kawerau Paraplegic Association and the Friendly Games. Jim was awarded a Paralympics New Zealand Order of Merit in 2001 for his outstanding services to Paralympic sport. A feature story on Jim Savage can be found here.
Paralympian #16 Rodney Wright
Rodney competed in international Para sport events in the late 60s. Upon return from one of these events in Jamaica, he held a meeting at his house of participating athletes and team support staff. It was then decided that it would be advantageous to form a national Paralympic organisation. This was the start of the New Zealand Paraplegic & Physically Disabled Federation, the original name of Paralympics New Zealand. A few months later, Rodney was selected to compete at the Tel Aviv 1968 Paralympic Games in Para archery and Para swimming. Rodney is a retired manufacturing jeweller and now lives in Papamoa with his wife Jocelyn. Paralympian number 16 Rodney Wright.
Paralympian #24 Ross Hynds (Ross was represented by his daughters)
Ross was a former president of Mount Maunganui Athletic Club and was also very involved with the disabled community in Tauranga being an athlete, official and coach in Para athletics. Ross made his debut at the Toronto 1976 Paralympic Games where he won a bronze medal in Discus. He competed at 3 further Paralympic Games – Arnhem 1980, New York and Stoke Mandeville 1984 and Barcelona 1992, winning 1 silver and 2 bronze medals. He was honoured with a Paralympics New Zealand Order of Merit in 2006 for outstanding service to Paralympic Sport. Ross passed away in 2015.
Paralympian #56 Lorraine Te Punga
Lorraine represented New Zealand at the Innsbruck 1988 Paralympic Winter Games. She was the only women in a team of 3 Paralympians, emerging as part of a new generation of Kiwi Para alpine skiers, competing in Para alpine skiing in Giant slalom, slalom and downhill.
Her passion for sport continued off the slopes as Lorraine worked as a swim school manager until last year. She is now a part time educational support worker. Lorraine lives in Taupo.
Paralympian #73 Mark Weeks
Para alpine skier Mark represented New Zealand at the Albertville 1992 Paralympic Winter Games in Giant Slalom, Slalom, Downhill and Super G. Mark stopped in Africa to meet up with friends after the Paralympic Games and stayed there 4 years doing supply runs to luxury lodges into the Okavango Delta in Botswana - on his own, in a 4WD truck. Mark then spent 10 years as an overland safari driver, operating tours from Kenya to South Africa. Married in 2001 - 2 amazing daughters and an amazing wife, Mark and his family came back to NZ in 2013 for kids high schooling. Since then Mark has been teaching his kids to ski, worked as a driving truck instructor and now works as a workshop manager for a fleet of trucks/diggers.
Paralympian #80 David MacCalman
David was a top New Zealand basketballer, the first kiwi to play in the Australian National League and received a scholarship to play in the USA. After his accident, David returned to New Zealand and started to coach basketball while competing in Para athletics, particularly Pentathlon. David qualified to compete to the Barcelona 1992 Paralympic Games, but his preferred event got cancelled only 6 weeks before the start of the competition and he was offered to compete in Javelin instead. He competed at 3 further Paralympic Games: Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 where he won a silver and a gold medal in Javelin, as well as a gold medal in Pentathlon. David now works as Senior Sports Adviser for the Halberg Foundation.
Paralympian #84 Kevin Aleksich
Our third Para alpine skier tonight, Kevin Aleksich was introduced to his sport after losing his leg to cancer in 1987. In 1994 he represented New Zealand in the Paralympic Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway. Kevin was a member of a team of 7 Kiwi Para alpine skiers, who collectively won 6 medals in Lillehammer. Kevin currently is the director of a local Project Management Company.
Paralympian #134 Stacey Roche
Originally from Katikati, Stacey was part of the New Zealand Paralympic Team competing to the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games. She was the Captain of the Boccia Team of 4 Para athletes who placed 4th in Sydney. Stacey is highly involved in the Tauranga City Council, volunteering as the Vice Co-chairperson of the Disability Advisory Group and coaching at the Parafed Bay of Plenty Boccia Club. She is also a board member of Parafed Bay of Plenty and the Attitude Trust. Last year Stacey took on the challenge of scaling The Mount (Mauao) and also found time to write her autobiography called 'The Ups And Downs Of A Dribbly Wobbly'. Stacey has recently decided to come out of retirement after 17 years and start training to compete in the National Boccia Championships in October with the ultimate goal of qualifying for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.
Paralympian #137 Sean Tretheway
Para swimmer, Sean was part of the team of 42 Paralympians competing to the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games. He raced in the 100m and 400m freestyle as well as the 100m backstroke in which he claimed a silver medal. Sean is still passionate about swimming and getting more people learning, participating and competing. Sean was the head of BAYswim, with two swim school sites in Tauranga. He is now self-employed as a screen printer.
Paralympian #136 George Taamaru and Paralympian # 167 Amanda Slade meet with Fiona Allan (Chief Executive, PNZ) during the last month and were proudly presented with their official ‘numbered’ Paralympic pin and certificate.
Paralympian #136 George Taamaru (Auckland)
George made his Paralympic debut in Sydney 2000 competing in Para powerlifting. He went on to compete at 2 further Paralympic Games – Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008. He also competed at the Manchester 2002 and Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games. George is an amputee and former Cook Islands rugby league representative, who has won many medals at national and regional able-bodied powerlifting competitions. George turned his talents to Va’a 7 years ago and competed in the 2018 IVF Va’a Worlds Sprints Championships in Tahiti. IN August he will compete in the IVF Va'a World Distance Championships with the hope of qualifying for the 2020 World Sprint Championship in Hawaii. Longer term George has his sights set on competing at the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games. George believes the sky is the limit and as long as you keep the motivation going you will achieve your goals.
Paralympian #167 Amanda Slade (Auckland)
Amanda made her Paralympic debut in the sport of Boccia at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games. She was part of a 30-strong New Zealand Paralympic Team including 6 further Boccia players. Amanda recalls competing at the Paralympic Games as an amazing experience she will never forget, competing against the best players from all over the world. Throughout her sporting career she competed at 3 international competitions including the 2006 Boccia World Championships and achieved a total of 20 caps for New Zealand.