Following on from a very successful 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janiero, the New Zealand Para athletics team will be competing in the 2017 Para Athletics World Championships in London, getting under way on Saturday morning New Zealand time.
The strong team of six athletes includes five of the six medallists from last year’s Paralympics and one newcomer to the sport.
While Liam Malone will not be competing in London, the team is a very strong one and expectations are high for success at the championships.
Heading the team will be 20 year old Rio Gold medallist Anna Grimaldi from Dunedin in her specialist long jump event, as well as the 100m and 200m. Grimaldi won gold in the Rio T47 long jump, leaping 5.62m, smashing her personal best and New Zealand record.
Javelin thrower Holly Robinson (22), also from Dunedin is in good form and will be hoping to turn her Rio silver medal into gold in London, competing in the F 46 event.
Canterbury’s William Stedman, just 17 years old, surprise winner of two bronze medals in the Rio T36 400m and 800m will be hoping to return to the podium in London, but a new kid on the block, Keegan Pitcher (19) from Auckland will be competing in those two events in the same classification and will push Stedman to his limits in both events.
Stedman will also contest the long jump, while Pitcher has the 200m as well.
Rory McSweeney (Canterbury) battled really well in Rio to grab bronze in a very competitive field in the F44 Javelin. The 32 year old will need to bring out the best of his competitive streak to repeat a medal winning performance at this year’s championships.
The sixth athlete in the team, also the most experienced, competing at her fourth World Championships since 2006, is 26 year old F34 shot putter Jess Hamill from Otago, also a bronze medallist in Rio.
Hamill has been appointed the team captain for the NZ team in London, in recognition for her experience stretching back to the Beijing Paralympics in 2008.
Competition gets under way for the NZ team in Saturday morning NZ time with Grimaldi kicking off her programme in the 200m heats.
The first final will see Holly Robinson in the Javelin on Sunday morning.
NZ Para Athletics Team page
Para Athletics World Champs website