The nine-member New Zealand team for the 2011 IPC Athletics World Championships in January in Christchurch has been confirmed.
As a qualification event for the 2012 London Paralympic Games, the Kiwi athletes will be pitting themselves against over 1,000 of the best athletes from around the world.
Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) has named Commonwealth Games silver medalist Jessica Hamill as well as Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games 200m silver medalist Kate Horan and 2004 Athens Paralympic Games gold medal winning middle distance runner Tim Prendergast.
Fellow Commonwealth Games representative Matthew Lack was also named. Lack competed in Delhi coming within six-hundredths of a second of a bronze medal in the 1500m T54. The 19-year-old hails from Opotiki in the Bay of Plenty. However he is not the youngest in the team.
That honour goes to West Coast athlete Holly Robinson who is just 15. Robinson will compete in the Javelin and Shot Put at the IPC Athletics World Championships. Two other teenagers are part of the team; Sunil Fernandez-Ritchie, 17, who is competing in the 1500m and 17-year-old Chelsea Seagar who will compete in sprint events and the long jump.
Competing in field events are Joe Flavell and Rory McSweeney. Flavell, 33, was a former New Zealand Maori Rugby League player and was a member of the Warriors development squad. He also excelled in basketball, rugby and softball at age group levels.
McSweeney is a 25-year-old javelin thrower from Dunedin.
Fiona Pickering, Chief Executive Officer of Paralympics New Zealand, said: “Paralympics New Zealand is very proud to be able to select such a strong team, which boasts international experience alongside great talent for the future and looking towards the 2012 London Paralympic Games
“With the IPC Athletics World Championships being held in Christchurch, it’s a great opportunity to showcase Paralympic sport and New Zealand on the world stage.”
Amongst some of the 1,000 plus names from overseas who have confirmed their participation in the event is world famous athlete Oscar Pistorius who is part of South Africa's 35-strong team. Pistorius will be competing in the 100m, 200m and 400m T44 - all races he won four years ago at the last IPC Athletics World Championships in Assen, the Netherlands.
Joining Pistorius in Christchurch are the fastest Paralympians on the planet over 100m, Ireland's Jason Smyth (men’s T13 world record holder at 10.62 seconds) and Brazil's Terezinha Guilhermino (women’s T11 world record holder since 2007).
The event will be the largest major gathering of international IPC athletes before the London 2012 Paralympic Games. It will also be the last opportunity for the athletes to qualify for London.
With less than 100 days to go to the World Championships, the position and scale of the event has been recognized with a local sponsor coming on board. Pub Charity has approved just under $800,000 for the 2011 IPC Athletics World Championships and as the starting blocks for the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
The sponsorship confirmation is a great boost for both Paralympics New Zealand and the 2011 IPC Athletics World Championship Organizing Committee and will assist both the event and athletes.