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The Celebration Project moves to the Waikato

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

This evening Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) marked the third 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 Hamilton, 18 New Zealand Paralympians, their families and friends, PNZ commercial partners and business leaders came together at Ebbett Toyota in partnership with Waikato 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 18 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 44 following the Celebration Project events in Auckland and Whangarei throughout May. 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.

Fiona Allan (Chief Executive, PNZ) said: "We were privileged to have 19 wonderful Paralympians and their families, friends and supporters, from New Zealand Paralympic Teams since Innsbruck 1988 come together in Hamilton tonight. There was Paralympian number 55 Patrick Cooper who competed as part of New Zealand’s 4th winter Paralympic Team in 1988, through to Paralympian number 209 Hannah van Kampen who has her sights set on the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games."

Jayne Craike (Paralympian #90) when asked about her memories of competing at the Paralympic Games said, "I have treasured memories that we [Jayne and husband David] are never going to forget. At the Sydney 2000 Paralympics I went into the arena the day I won gold, I had this surreal feeling - like in The Matrix movie where everything slows down. It was just like that. I could hear every footfall of the horse. It was a five-and-a-half-minute test and it felt like half an hour! I had so much time to adjust everything. When I finished and looked up, suddenly I saw there were all these thousands of people in the arena that I hadn’t even noticed when I came in, such was my focus."

She continued, "That was a real moment. And then, to see my husband and mother in the crowd. It was so fabulous, and I’m so grateful to everyone who stuck by me. In your lifetime, you might have that three or four times - when you are able to have such focus that you can give everything in that moment, 100 per cent of you to the world. It was just the most amazing feeling. It really was so special. And it stays with you for life."

PNZ has now staged 3 events (Auckland, Whangarei and Hamilton) and will stage a further 9 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.

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