Neroli Fairhall, MBE, archer. Died aged 61.

Neroli Fairhall was the first paraplegic to win a gold medal at a Commonwealth games, for archery at Brisbane in 1982.

The reaction of the world's media was immediate and hysterical. A British journalist asked if, in the windy conditions that day, shooting sitting down was a help or a hindrance.

"I don't know," replied Fairhall. "I've never shot standing up."

The four-day competition was close. At the end Fairhall and a 17-year-old from Northern Ireland, Janet Yates, had the same tally of 2373, and a countback was ordered. Fairhall had scored 60 possibles or gold hits to Yates' 57, and the gold medal was hers. This was the only time archery has been included as a Commonwealth Games sport.

Fairhall's life in a wheelchair was the result of a motorbike accident in 1969, when she failed to take a bend on the top of the Port Hills in Christchurch. She lay critically injured for 21 hours before being discovered by a passing motorist. Fairhall represented New Zealand at the Commonwealth Paraplegic Games in 1974 and at a world paraplegic event in Heidelberg in Germany.

"I performed in the shot and discus and wheel dashes," she said in an interview in 1979, "but I found I didn't have the build for events like that."

The switch to archery was not easy. Her arms became tired and her stomach muscles ached. Swimming up to four times a week at her local pool in Christchurch built up the muscles, and her archery scores soared.

In 1980 Fairhall was selected for the New Zealand team to compete at the Olympic Games in Moscow. World reaction to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan led to the New Zealand team, amongst others, boycotting the competition. It was a major blow to Fairhall, but selection for the Paralympic Games in Holland that year was a consolation. She won a gold medal, and set world, Olympic and New Zealand records with a score of 2404.

She was again selected for the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984. Fairhall's steel wheelchair caused nightmares, setting off metal-detection scanners at airports. Security personnel wanted to inspect every part - Fairhall had to be lifted out so that even her air-filled cushion could be searched. Again competing against the able-bodied, she finished 35th overall. Her performance was perhaps hindered by the numbers of reporters and photographers wanting a look at the first paraplegic ever to compete in an Olympic Games.

Fairhall was the national archery champion for many years, and only retired from international competition in 2001. She remained as a coach in Christchurch, and also worked as a voluntary worker for archery and schools.

She was awarded the Lonsdale Cup in 1982 for the most meritorious performance in an Olympic or Commonwealth Games that year, and was made an MBE for services to archery and the disabled.

Neroli Fairhall died in Christchurch on Sunday.