Paralympic sport in New Zealand has its stellar figures. The likes of swimmers Mary Fisher, Sophie Pascoe, Nikita Howarth and Cameron Leslie, and shooter Michael Johnson are the current torch bearers.

They won't be around forever. High Performance Sport New Zealand boss Alex Baumann has spoken of the good work of the administrators in unearthing the future stars.

Put Dunedin's talented Anna Grimaldi firmly in that category.

The 18-year-old long jumper and sprinter is already ranked fourth in the world in her T47 classification, having been a classic late starter.


Grimaldi was born without a right hand, but rather than bemoan her misfortune, she calls herself "super lucky". After all having a wrist and good length in her arm has compensated.

"I definitely haven't felt like I have a disadvantage. I just got stuck into everything at school. Dad and Mum taught me how to tie my shoes, catch and throw a ball," she said.

Adjectives to describe Grimaldi? Bubbly and upbeat would do nicely.

Grimaldi, a year out of high school and studying quantity surveying, is preparing for next month's world IPC championships in Doha.

Her ability was unearthed by Paralympics New Zealand's talent identification department.

In late 2013 Grimaldi was contacted about attending a camp in Dunedin. She was unsure about it. She'd done no training and her knowledge of para athletics was limited.

"I was pretty reluctant to go," Grimaldi said.

"I thought I was going to be shocking. It was scary going there. I felt kind of out of place, like a complete newbie.


"They all had some form of training and knew what they were doing. But I wasn't as terrible as I first thought."

She laughs about being asked to run a 400m, sprinting hard for the first 200m before 'dying'.

But her ability was immediately evident. A pile of gold medals and personal bests were racked up.

Long jump remains her priority event, with a PB of 5.29m.

She has spent plenty of time this year building her strength with coach Brent Ward.

Grimaldi has been using an artificial arm to help with certain exercises. She's not about to start wearing one permanently though.

"When I first got it, I felt it got in the way. I felt desensitized, really awkward, with something covering my arm."

Grimaldi doubts she'll ever get to the point of using an artificial arm permanently.

"Because I have a wrist, I do so much with that. Having to put something plastic over the top I won't have the use of my wrist any more.

"It's taken me a while to get used to having one hand. I used to be super shy and wouldn't show anybody. I'd hide it all the time.

"Now I don't really care and it's not a problem any more."

She's not sure which events she'll compete in at Doha. That will be worked out in the next few weeks with Ward.

There's a couple of competitions during the Dunedin camp later this month, another two in Darwin early next month before arriving in Doha for the championships, running from October 22-31.

As for Rio, for this late bloomer right now anything's possible.

"I remember having a conversation with someone at that camp [two years ago] and they said 'let's go for Rio and I was like 'whoa, whoa, that's three years away. Maybe Tokyo 2020.

"It's just insane that in my first and second year we were talking about the world championships. I'd never have expected anything like this.

"But I'm super excited. Can't wait."