New Zealand had to wait six days before their first gold medal at the recent Olympic Games in London but it came on the first day of action at the Paralympics, and came in some style.
Not only did swimmer Sophie Pascoe win the S10 200m individual medley but the 19-year-old also broke two world records along the way, slicing more than three seconds off the world's best time in her swim in the final. She was also more than six seconds ahead of Canada's Summer Ashley Mortimer in second.
It was the best possible start for the New Zealand Paralympic team and Northland cyclist Fiona Southorn also picked up bronze in the velodrome. Four Kiwis were in action on the first day in London.
New Zealand Paralympic bosses have targeted 18 medals from the Games, which would represent a good return given there are only 24 athletes. As many as 12 could come in the pool, and it was little surprise Pascoe won gold.
She won three among her four medals in Beijing as a 15-year-old four years ago and has five more events to claim some more hardware in London. She is due to race in the S10 50m freestyle overnight (NZT) and has already set high standards after clocking two minutes 25.65 seconds for the 200m individual medley, which easily eclipsed the old world record of 2:29.35.
"It was quite unexpected," she said of her double world record. "I would have been happy with a [two minutes] 27 but a 25, I'm absolutely stoked.
I did all the hard yards before I came here and that's exactly what I wanted to go out and do."
Pascoe, who is a below-the-leg amputee, admitted it was special to claim New Zealand's first gold medal at the Paralympics and thought she might treat herself with a dessert. But she hopes to dine out on more success in London and wasn't getting too carried away.
"My main focus now is the next five races," she said. "I came here for six and this is just one so bring on the next five.
"We came here to do the job. We've got a team of 24 athletes and we're all striving to do personal bests. That's what I came here to do, but to get on the podium is special.
"It probably won't sink in until the end of the competition."
Southorn, who has a limb deficiency in her left arm, picked up New Zealand's first medal with bronze in the C5 individual women's pursuit.
The 44-year-old, competing in her third Paralympics, improved her personal best set in her heat in the morning by five seconds and completely dominated her bronze-medal rideoff, beating Great Britain's Crystal Lane by seven seconds.
"I can't believe it, no, it's incredible," she said. "I'm getting faster with age, so bring on the next one."
Southorn will compete in the women's team sprint over the weekend.
- APNZBy Michael Brown Email Michael