Otago Daily Times
Pascoe, Leslie headline swim team
WELLINGTON: Multiple gold medallists Sophie Pascoe and Cameron Leslie headline a fivestrong swimming team to represent New Zealand at the Tokyo Paralympics.
Jesse Reynolds, Nikita Howarth and Tupou Neiufi round out the squad.
They are the first group of competitors to be announced to the Paralympic team.
The five swimmers hold 20 Paralympic medals and 14 longcourse world records and are expected to play a major role in New Zealand’s campaign at the Paralympics, which start on August 24.
Leslie was a Paralympic gold medallist at Beijing in 2008, London in 2012 and again at Rio in 2016.
He will be competing at his fourth straight Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
Leslie, who has a quadruple limb deficiency, will be looking to continue his outstanding performances this time in both swimming and wheelchair rugby if wheelchair rugby is selected.
Pascoe is the most decorated New Zealand Paralympian, having won 15 Paralympics medals.
She made her debut at the Beijing Games securing three golds and one silver.
In London, she won three gold and three silver.
In Rio, Pascoe won three gold and two silver medals.
Tokyo 2020 will be Pascoe’s fourth Paralympic Games.
Pascoe, who has a singlelimb deficiency, hopes to continue to cement her place in the history books as one of New Zealand’s most successful Paralympians.
‘‘It is a real honour to be selected to represent New Zealand at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games,’’ she said.
‘‘To represent my country at my fourth Paralympic Games is a privilege. I know the New Zealand public will get right behind us as they did for the Rio 2016 Paralympics and really show their support.’’
Howarth was New Zealand’s youngest Paralympian when she made her debut in London at just 13.
She then went on to win a gold and bronze medal in Rio.
Tokyo will be Howarth’s third Paralympics after only returning to the sport of swimming less than two years ago after a very successful stint cycling.
Neiufi was first identified by Paralympics New Zealand in 2011 as part of a swimming talent identification programme.
She then went on to make her Paralympic debut in Rio.
At 15, she finished seventh in the women’s 100m backstroke S9.
Neiufi is ranked second in the world, having won the silver medal in the women’s 100m backstroke S8 in the 2019 Para world championships in London.
Neiufi has a leftsided hemiplegia, meaning she has paralysis on the left side of her body.
Reynolds has been a competitive swimmer since the age of 11 and made his Paralympic debut in Rio where he swam two personalbest times.
He is ranked sixth in the 100m backstroke S9, in which he placed at the 2019 Para world championships in London.
Reynolds has a single limb deficiency.
Paralympic team chef de mission Paula Tesoriero said they were thrilled to welcome five experienced Paralympians to the New Zealand team.
‘‘The knowledge and understanding they will bring to the team will be immense and I know they will provide invaluable support to those Para athletes that are competing at the Paralympic Games for the first time.’’
Paralympics New Zealand chief executive Fiona Allan said it was fantastic to announce the first group of Para athletes to represent in Tokyo.
‘‘Cameron, Sophie, Nikita,
Tupou and Jesse have recently competed at the New Zealand swimming championships last week and their performances have satisfied PNZ selectors that they have met the selection criteria for Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.’’
Further selections to the New Zealand Paralympic Team are expected in the coming months for up to seven more Para sports. The team may include up to 45 Para athletes. — RNZ