Paralympians inspire youths
Wed, 12 Sep 2012 6:41p.m.
By Michelle Pickles
Our Paralympic team arrived home from a hugely successful campaign in London today, and with a total of 17 medals - including six golds - New Zealand topped the table for medals per capita of population.
Now they want to ensure they capitalise on their achievements.
Swimmer Sophie Pascoe won three golds and three silver medals, and the 19-year-old hopes to play her part in ensuring the Paralympics continue to grow in popularity.
“To see kids like that looking up to people like me, to inspire them, that’s what we need,” says Pascoe.
“These guys here will be looking towards 2020 and that’s what we need, more athletes getting involved, so it’s great.”
It wasn't only the athletes that broke records in London; the event itself did too, with 2.7 million spectators and more than $70 million in ticket sales.
“It was a sell-out crowd every time I was in the pool, and to walk out into an atmosphere that was just so hyped up about cheering on the Paralympic athletes and to have a sell-out crowd - we've never had that in a Paralympic sport before,” says Pascoe.
“They definitely set a new standard, so I think Rio will probably have a bit of pressure now looking forward, but the profile of the athletes and the way it was presented publicity was just amazing,” says gold medallist Laura Thompson.
Now it's hoped New Zealand will embrace their Paralympians with the same sort of enthusiasm.
“I think we've got a great opportunity in New Zealand now, I think we've captured the hearts and minds of New Zealanders with the athletes' achievements and hopefully that will grow now from here,” says Paralympics New Zealand chief executive Fiona Allan.
For now though these athletes can take some time to reflect on their success.
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