Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) has named a team of five Para cyclists to compete at the 2018 UCI Para Cycling Road World Championships (Maniago, Italy) from 2–5 July.
The team is headlined by Rio 2016 Paralympian Stephen Hills (T2). He will be joined by Sarah Ellington (C3), Nicole Murray (C5), Rory Mead (H2) and Eltje Malzbender* (T1).
Stu MacDonald, PNZ’s Para Cycling Head Performance Coach, said: “The naming of this team to represent New Zealand provides a great opportunity for us all to learn and perform with the best Para cyclists in the world. I am excited to see what the riders are able to bring to our campaign, but more importantly what we can learn collectively from the World Championships to help the riders and staff grow as we keep working hard towards the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.”
Malcolm Humm, PNZ’s High Performance Director, said: “This group is reflective of the huge amount of work that the team at Paralympics New Zealand has been putting in behind the scenes to ensure we have opportunities to bring talented Para cyclists through the sport and onto the international stage. Through the development of strong structures and pathways across both our talent identification and athlete development programmes we are bringing large numbers of Para athletes into Para sport that in the past may not have had this opportunity.”
Stephen Hills, was New Zealand’s first ever trike Para cyclist at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. He won two silver medals at the 2017 UCI Para Cycling Road World Championships. However, this year Stephen is aiming to climb to the top of the podium and beat rival and world champion Hans-Peter Durst of Germany.
Sarah Ellington made her international debut at last year’s UCI Para Cycling Road World Championships. Her journey to international competition has been fast – she attended a ACC Paralympics New Zealand Open Day in Auckland during late 2016. She was subsequently invited to a talent identification camp, selected to the Para Cycling Development Squad and represented New Zealand in August 2017 – all in less than a year. Most recently Sarah won two silver medals at the UCI Para Cycling Road World Cup in Belgium.
Nicole Murray has been in the Para Cycling Programme for a number of years, competing at a variety of national competitions. She made her international debut in Rio de Janiero at the UCI Para Cycling Track World Championships. Nicole exceeded all expectations including her own, winning a silver medal and smashing many personal best times.
Rory Mead will make his international debut in the New Zealand Para Cycling Team in Italy. Based in the USA, Mead was a national mountain bike champion and was competing in the sport he loved when he sustained a spinal cord injury.
Eltje Malzbender will join Stephen Hills as the second trike Para cyclist in the team heading to Italy. A former national champion runner in her birth country of Germany, she will make her international debut after only coming into the Para Cycling Development Programme in July 2017. Malzbender initially turned to Para cycling as a form of rehabilitation following a road accident while out cycling in 2016 where she sustained a traumatic brain injury.
Further selection announcements may be made in the coming weeks.
* Confirmed selection subject to meeting New Zealand citizenship eligibility.