Paralympic NZ optimistic about receiving increased funding

By David Leggat

New Zealand's Sophie Pascoe with her gold medal after winning the Womens 200m Individual Medley SM10 Swimming at the Rio Paralympics. Photo / Photosport.co.nz
New Zealand's Sophie Pascoe with her gold medal after winning the Womens 200m Individual Medley SM10 Swimming at the Rio Paralympics. Photo / Photosport.co.nz

Paralympic New Zealand officials are optimistic they can present a strong argument for increased funding when they meet the Government sports funding agency in the next few weeks.

They compete alongside the able-bodied sports organisations, in their quest for financial support to match their plans for the next four years.

Some of those sports bodies must also set aside a chunk of the money they are given for their Paralympic athletes. It promises to be a tricky business for High Performance Sport New Zealand officials.

Consider that New Zealand managed a record 18 medals at the Rio Games; they also exceeded their target for the Paralympics, finishing with 21, three more than their objective.

However they fell one short of the ambition of 10 gold medals. Even so, they finished first on the Paralympics per capita medal table and 13th overall, their best placing eclipsing the 16th place of Athens in 2004.

The nine gold medals equalled the previous best mark from Atlanta in 1996.

PNZ chief executive Fiona Allan acknowledged the challenges of getting their fair slice of the pie. But she's confident a solid case has been made in Rio.

"It's always difficult, but yes I believe with our achievements in Rio we will be in a good position to have those discussions with HPSNZ for the next funding cycle - and hopefully our achievements will contribute towards greater investment in the future."

As a comparison, PNZ received $12.18 million from HPSNZ for the last four-year cycle leading to Rio. By comparison, Rowing New Zealand pocked $32 million and achieved just three medals; Cycling New Zealand trousered $26.4 million and managed a solitary silver.

PNZ oversee funding for four sports, swimming, cycling, athletics and shooting. Their finances are spread far wider than a solitary sport. They are aware they need to look further afield than just the Government for support.

"We certainly need to be looking at investment sources. We want to look at increasing, and growing, para sport in New Zealand so we're looking for increased investments, not only from government, but commercial and public fund raising," Allan said.

There are three world championships next year for major New Zealand para sports, in swimming, athletics and shooting, with funding to come from PNZ.

The Paralympics enhanced the standing of some New Zealand athletes around the globe, such as swimmer Sophie Pascoe, who won three gold and two silver medals to take Eve Rimmer's place as the country's most successful Paralympian with 15 medals.

Pascoe also finished 10th on the table for best overall performance in Rio, out of 4350 athletes.

And it threw some onto the world stage, most spectacularly blade running Canterbury university student Liam Malone, who heads home with two golds and a silver, and a new legion of followers taken by his distinctive, outgoing personality.

New Zealand's Paralympic Games medallists
Gold (nine): Sophie Pascoe (swimming) 3, Liam Malone (athletics) 2, Cameron Leslie (swimming), Mary Fisher (swimming), Anna Grimaldi (athletics), Nikita Howarth (swimming)
Silver (five): Pascoe 2, Malone, Holly Robinson (athletics), Emma Foy/Laura Thompson (cycling)
Bronze (seven): William Stedman (athletics) 2, Foy/Thompson, Jess Hamill (athletics), Rebecca Dubber (swimming), Howarth, Rory McSweeney (athletics)

* New Zealand won 21 medals at the Paralympics in Rio, three more than their stated target, although they fell one shy of the aim of 10 gold medals.
* Paralympics New Zealand received $12.18 million in the last four-year cycle leading up to the Games.
* They will join able bodied sports organisations in bidding for an improved slice of the High Performance Sport New Zealand funding pie later this year. The decisions on where that money goes will be revealed in December.

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