Paralympians Sophie Pascoe, Mary Fisher, Kate Horan and Para athlete Libby Leikis today welcomed crowds at ASB Sports Centre (Wellington) to the first event in the new series of five ACC Paralympics New Zealand Open Days.
The event was run in conjunction with Parafed Wellington and builds on the success of previous ACC Paralympics New Zealand Open Day events in 2016 and early 2017.
It was clear that whilst the attendees were interested in trying out various Para sports and finding out about opportunities in the community, they were also excited about getting up close to, and meeting their Paralympic heroes.
The public had the opportunity to discover various Para sports including Para athletics, Para cycling, Para swimming, Wheelchair rugby, Wheelchair basketball and Boccia. They also were able to connect with organisations such as New Zealand Artificial Limb Servcie and Achilles New Zealand.
A highlight of the day for many was the opportunity to talk directly with each of the three New Zealand Paralympians and Para athlete Libby Leikis. Attendee Niki Edwards said: “WE came along today so our son could meet the Paralympians. He has a disability so for him to see these amazing athletes, who have a variety of disabilities, who have achieved so much is really inspirational for him.”
Fiona Allan (Chief Executive, Paralympics New Zealand) said: “It is fantastic to see such a great turn out today. It is exciting to be able to provide the opportunity for disabled people to discover the joy of Para sport, connect with people involved in these Para sports as well as showcasing the various sports available on the Paralympic programme. We have seen a number of individuals today that display strong competitive potential which is exciting for the future of Para sport in New Zealand.”
Scott Pickering (Chief Executive, ACC) said: “What the event demonstrates is how important Para sport can be for people who’ve had life changing injuries – it’s all about bringing communities together. I really encourage people to become involved, whether it’s playing Para sport, refereeing, coaching, helping out behind the scenes or cheering on from the side-lines.”
The first ACC Paralympics New Zealand Open Day comes at a time when New Zealand’s PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games Team are entering the final stages of preparation with only 113 days to go until the Paralympic Winter Games begin. At the same time, their summer counterparts are now less than three years away from Tokyo 2020, meaning that there has never been a better time for disabled Kiwis to give Para sport a go.
Sophie Pascoe said: “It is so exciting to see that the success that the New Zealand Paralympic Teams have had has inspired other disabled kiwis to come along to the Open Day, try Para sport and maybe go all the way to a future Paralympic Games. It is a great feeling for all of us as Paralympians to know that we have paved the way.”
Mary Fisher said: “There was such a range of people here today and it was great to have the opportunity to speak to them about my journey and what might be possible if they find themselves on a pathway to a great sports career. We have four more ACC Paralympics New Zealand Open Days coming up in New Plymouth, Auckland, Tauranga and Dunedin, and it would be wonderful to see the public join us.”
Kate Horan said: “Today was a great opportunity for disabled people to come to an event and experience a huge number of Para sport opportunities under one roof. I could tell so many of those who attended today were excited about the variety of Para sport opportunities available to them. I was lucky enough to join in and was pretty happy with my skills in the racing wheelchair.”
Libby Leikis said: “This is the first ACC Paralympics New Zealand Open Day I have attended. It was awesome to see so many coaches and volunteers across a variety of Para sports in the Sports Centre. It is passionate people like this that are so critical to encouraging and supporting all Para athletes into Para sport.”
Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) and its major partner ACC have developed and are jointly staging the events. Several other providers, including local Parafeds and National Sports Organisations, were on-site to showcase opportunities for disabled people. PNZ classifiers and high performance team members worked with participants to explore their physical capabilities and interest in the various Para sports available. The events are designed to be fun and interactive, with friends and families also encouraged to attend. The second event in the current series is taking place at the TSB Stadium in New Plymouth on 19 November and the third event at Pulman Park, Auckland on 2 December 2017. Two further events will be held during 2018 in Tauranga and Dunedin.
Details of all ACC Paralympics New Zealand Open Day events found here.