As many families settle down for Father’s Day celebrations, New Zealand’s top Para-Athletes will be excused if their minds wander to Rio and thoughts of what lies ahead. Sunday 7 September marks two years until the Opening Ceremony of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
Chef de Mission of the New Zealand Paralympic Team, Ben Lucas will be celebrating Father’s Day with his family in Christchurch and also remembering the significance of the two year milestone for athletes. As an athlete Ben represented New Zealand at the 1994 Victoria Commonwealth Games, Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games. He led both Paralympic Games teams as New Zealand Team Captain.
“The two year milestone is significant”, he says, “I recall the anticipation of the build up to the 1996 and 2000 Paralympic Games and counting down the months until selection and then the opening ceremony.”
He continues, “This is a time when athlete commitment and determination is vital and we believe that due to this commitment a large number of New Zealand Para-Athletes are currently tracking towards some great results in Rio. Not only are the athletes putting in the hard yards, it is also the support teams that have been built around these athletes that are now playing a crucial role in their pathway to success.”
Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) Chief Executive, Fiona Allan said, “New Zealand has a target of 18 medals including 8 – 12 Gold medals for Rio, one we believe we can achieve.” She continues, “It is the first time the Paralympic Games will be held in South America and although the challenges have been well documented we believe it also offers a great opportunity for our athletes to experience a unique Games culture.”
During the last 12 months NZ Para-Athletes have been recording some outstanding results on the international stage winning a total of 14 Gold medals, 6 Silver medals and 6 Bronze medals at Pinnacle events.
Most recently Mary Fisher set a new World Record in the 400m Freestyle S11 at the NZ Short Course Championships, in a time of 5:16.98 taking 0.32 off the previous World Record.
This week the NZ Para-Cycling team completed a success campaign at the Road World Championships returning with a trifecta of medals and a World Champion title.
While New Zealand’s largest ever contingent of Para-Swimmers returned from the Pan Pacific Para-Swimming Championships in August with 9 Golds, 2 Silver and 2 Bronze medals, with all swimmers clocking up personal best times over the 5 day meet.
PNZ High Performance Director, Malcolm Humm said, “There is no doubt that recent results at Pinnacle events have shown that we have a large number of athletes that are tracking nicely towards the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.” He continues, “We are also excited about the emergence of talented athletes such as Tim Williams and Rebecca Dubber who have jump up the international rankings recently with medal performances.”