“Following the success of the IPC Swimming World Championships in Glasgow, we believe this is one of our most talented Para swimming squads to attend a Paralympic Games."
Paralympic gold medallists Sophie Pascoe, Mary Fisher and Cameron Leslie have been selected to headline the New Zealand Para swimming squad heading to the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games this September. The trio will be joined by fellow London 2012 Paralympians, Nikita Howarth and Rebecca Dubber, along with two rising stars on the world stage, Bryall McPherson and Jesse Reynolds. The announcement was made at the team’s National Training Centre at AUT Millennium on Thursday (5 May) and marks the second set of para-athletes to be announced to the New Zealand Team, following the Para sailors in March.
Between them, the Para swimming squad holds a staggering nine Paralympic titles, 22 world titles and 10 long course World Records. Together, they are expected to play a major role in New Zealand’s campaign to the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, which open on 7 September. The New Zealand Team is aiming to win 18 medals, including 12 gold, across up to eight sports and hopes to retain its London 2012 title of number one in the world, medals per capita.
Sophie Pascoe, winner of six gold medals and four silver across two Paralympic Games (London 2012 and Beijing 2008) will proudly wear the silver fern for the third time in Rio de Janeiro in women’s S10, as she hopes to cement her place in the history books as one of New Zealand’s most successful Paralympians.
Mary Fisher, break-through swimmer at London 2012 with a stunning haul of a gold, two silver, a bronze and a world record, will take to the water across multiple events in the women’s S11.
Cameron Leslie, gold medallist and World Record holder at Beijing 2008 and again at London 2012 will be competing at his third straight Paralympic Games. A veteran at only 26 years of age. Leslie will be looking to continue his outstanding performances against an increasingly competitive field in the individual medley SM4.
New Zealand’s youngest ever Paralympian four years ago at just 13 years of age, Nikita Howarth will be competing at her second Paralympic Games. Currently ranked first in the world in two events and second in another, Howarth will be hoping her blistering form will take her all the way to a Rio podium in the women’s S7, SM7 and SB8.
London 2012 Paralympian, Rebecca Dubber, won two silver medals at the 2015 IPC Swimming World Championships. Dubber has seen a continual improvement in performance since the 2014 Pan Pacific Para-Swimming Championships where she swam her fastest times since London 2012.
This wealth of experience will be invaluable as Paralympic Games debutants Bryall McPherson and Jesse Reynolds represent New Zealand at their first ever Paralympic Games. Both McPherson and Reynolds have accelerated through the Paralympics New Zealand Para swimming development programme, reaching the high performance programme in record time. They will look to draw experience from a variety of international meets as they compete on the international stage in Rio.
The selection announcement is presented by New Zealand seafood company, Sanford, a Major Partner of Paralympics New Zealand. Following the announcement the Para-swimmers enjoyed a specially catered lunch to celebrate their selection to the New Zealand Team.
Fiona Allan (Chief Executive, Paralympics New Zealand) said, “It is fantastic to announce our second selected sport today. Sophie, Mary, Cam, Nikita, Rebecca, Bryall and Jesse have demonstrated that they have the potential to win a medal at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games and beyond. Paralympics New Zealand is thrilled to have the Para swimmers join our Para sailors on the New Zealand Team.”
The New Zealand Paralympic Team has consistently featured Para swimmers since first sending a team to a Paralympic Games in Tel Aviv 1968.
Sophie Pascoe said, “It is a real honour to be selected to represent New Zealand at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in Para swimming. To represent New Zealand at my third Paralympic Games is an opportunity of a lifetime. In my time, I have never before seen so much support from the NZ public and media.”
Alex Baumann (Chief Executive, High Performance Sport NZ) said, “Following the success of the IPC Swimming World Championships in Glasgow, we believe this is one of our most talented Para swimming squads to attend a Paralympic Games. With world leading athletes and an exciting pipeline of emerging talent, I would like to congratulate all the athletes selected today and wish them every success in their preparations for Rio”.
The addition of the Para swimming squad takes the New Zealand Paralympic Team to 10 selected athletes to date, with selections pending for up to another six sports over the next 10 weeks. The eventual team is expected to be between 25-35 Para-Athletes in total. In early March, former America’s Cup sailor and multiple World Champion, Rick Dodson, Chris Sharp and double Paralympian, Andrew May, were selected to Rio 2016 in the 3-person keelboat event (Sonar).
The full Para swimming squad is:
Sophie Pascoe, women’s S10, SB9, SM10
Mary Fisher, S11, SB11, SM11
Cameron Leslie, S5, SM4
Nikita Howarth, S7, SB8, SM7
Rebecca Dubber, S7, SB6, SM7
Bryall McPherson, S8, SB8, SM8
Jesse Reynolds, S9, SB9, SM9