Para-Sailors Richard Dodson, Andrew May and Chris Sharp have been selected by Paralympics New Zealand to compete at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, taking place September 7-18.
The announcement was made jointly by PNZ and Yachting New Zealand in central Auckland, today.
The three members of the Para-Sailing crew become the first set of Para-Athletes to be selected to the New Zealand Paralympic Team. Pending final qualifying results, selection announcements for up to another seven Para-Sports will be made in coming months, to create a total team of between 25-45 Para-Athletes. New Zealand is aiming to win 18 medals, including 12 Gold, this year in Rio.
The Para-Sailing crew is made up of a former America's Cup sailor and multiple World Champion, and a double Paralympian (1996, 2000). The crew will compete in the 3-person keelboat event (Sonar).
Richard (Rick) Dodson will be well known to many Kiwis as the onboard Strategist for Team New Zealand's successful 1995 challenge and 2000 defence of the America's Cup. This will be Dodson's first Paralympic Games, after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1997 and beginning Para-Sailing in 2012.
Dodson will be joined by double Paralympian, Andrew May. May first competed at the Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Games with a team in the Sonar class and then again at Sydney 2000 in the single-handed 2.4mR. May achieved sixth place at both Games. The third and final member of the crew, Chris Sharp, has been sailing since he was a young boy and more recently, has raced sport boats and Flying 15's. Chris was thrilled to receive a call up from Dodson in late 2014.
Fiona Allan (Chief Executive, PNZ) said, "It is fantastic to announce our first selections today. Richard, Andrew and Chris have demonstrated that they have the potential to win a medal at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games and Paralympics New Zealand is thrilled to have Para-Sailors as part of the New Zealand Paralympic Team in Rio."
The New Zealand Paralympic Team has featured five crews at the Games since 1996, when Para-Sailing was first introduced.
Richard Dodson (Para-Sailor) said, "It is a real honour to be selected to represent New Zealand at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in Para-Sailing," he continues, "It is the ultimate goal for any Para-Athlete. We know it's going to be very tough and we are ambitious, we will be competing to bring home a medal. We are looking forward to rewarding the selectors for their faith in us and making our country proud."
Yachting New Zealand are equally thrilled at the announcement. David Abercrombie (Chief Executive, YNZ) said, "We are delighted that Rick, Andrew and Chris have been selected and New Zealand will be represented in Para-Sailing at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. These men are truly inspirational and we look forward to working with them as they move into the final stages of their Road to Rio campaign."
As the selection announcement was made, PNZ also took the opportunity welcome its newest Supporting Partners. Maersk Line, the world's largest container shipping company, and Takapuna based international shipping business, Oceanbridge, have pledged their joint support to the New Zealand Paralympic Team. The partnership means that the shipping and handling of all equipment, from sensitive sporting equipment specially designed for athletes with a disability; through to medical supplies and items needed to help support the Team, will be professionally managed to and from Rio de Janeiro.
Fiona Allan (Chief Executive, PNZ) said, "For quite some time, Paralympics New Zealand has been looking for shipping partners that can not only handle sensitive disability equipment, but are also experienced in the challenging environment South America presents. Maersk Line and Oceanbridge come highly recommended by Yachting New Zealand and culturally, they are a fantastic fit for us - they are very excited by what New Zealand Paralympic Team is hoping to achieve in Rio."
Gerard Morrison (Managing Director, Maersk Line New Zealand) said: "We have been following Paralympics New Zealand for some time, particularly admiring their ambition to increase awareness and fundraising to support the growth of Para-Sport through the Spirit of Gold® Initiative. By supporting PNZ's shipping costs, funds can be put back into supporting the Team in other areas. We could not be more delighted to play our part in helping our Paralympians succeed on the world stage."
The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, which begin exactly 2.5 weeks after the end of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and take place in the exact same location and venues, will run from 7-18 September 2016. The Games are the world's largest multi-sport event for disabled athletes; over 4,350 athletes from 178 countries are expected to compete in 22 sports, with 526 medal events taking place.