Please find below our 2019 first semester scholarship recipients. (alphabetic order)
Gemma Fletcher, Para Ski
Gemma Fletcher is an aspiring Paralympic alpine sit skier on the Snow Sports New Zealand national development team. She learnt to ski at the age of fourteen but decided in 2018 to train towards representing New Zealand at the Winter Paralympics.
Gemma recently spent six weeks training in Winter Park, Colorado with the world renowned training programme run by the National Sports Centre for the Disabled. She is now in Wanaka where she will be training full time with the High Performance Centre at Cardrona in preparation for the Winter Games where she plans compete in her chosen disciplines, slalom and giant slalom. At the conclusion of winter in New Zealand Gemma intends to return to Winter Park to continue to train and compete with the NSCD.
Josh Crean, Para Ski
Josh was born with an incomplete left hand so skis with just one pole. He took to the snow from a young age, travelling from Auckland to Mt Hutt for family ski holidays and enjoying every moment he could be in the mountains.
It was at a Snow Sports NZ Adaptive Snow Sports Have-a-Go-Day at Snowplanet that Josh first met Paralympians Adam Hall and Corey Peters. A trip down to Wanaka for the Adaptive Snow Sports Festival followed and Josh was inspired to pursue a career in competitive snow sports.
He finished school at the end of 2017 and travelled to Winter Park in the USA to train and begin competing against an international field.
Since then he has competed at multiple events overseas in the USA and even Dubai – where he won silver in the WAPAS Slalom event. He is working his way up the World Rankings and aims to compete at World Cup level soon and at the 2022 Paralympics in China.
Mii Pepe, Waka Ama
My Para Sporting career started with wheelchair basketball where I began playing for the Auckland Wheelbreakers in 2011. I first made the NZ wheelchair basketball team in 2014, where we represented NZ in South Korea at the Men’s World Wheelchair Basketball Championship. The sport has taken me to Thailand, South Africa, China and Australia over the past 8 years and I continue to play in the NZ men’s development squad. The Auckland Wheelbreakers have also won 4 national titles during this time.
Waka ama was my hobby back in the Cook Islands and I found my new sporting passion in Waka Ama last year in 2018, when finding out it was an opportunity represent NZ. I joined Te Paerangi Waka Ama Club in October and trained hard in preparation for Te Wānanga o Aotearoa Waka Ama National Sprint Championships where I received my first (gold) medal for Waka Ama. Since then, a bigger picture of opportunities has opened up for me in the sport and It’s now a dream of mine to be selected for the Tokyo 2020 NZ Paralympic Games team.
Mitch Joynt, Athletics
Before my accident I played rugby and hockey and i snowboarded but just socially. I did compete in archery fairly seriously though and in 2011 I won gold at the world bow hunting championships in Australia.
In 2013 I lost my leg in a wood chipper during a work incident, within a couple months I was walking and after 5 months I was back at work as an arborist. By 2014 I was snowboarding and 2015 I was back playing social hockey. 2017 my aspirations really ramped up, I represented NZ in a snowboard world cup and I completed the Auckland marathon. But most importantly I met former parafed CEO Hamish Meacheam and began my athletics career. In my first season I competed in the 100, 200, 400, long jump and javelin trying to find my niche. In that first season I broke the NZ records in the 200 & 400. In my second season i narrowed it down to focus on the 100 & 200 distances, this really payed off as I smashed my own NZ records, earned 2 silver medals at nationals and got selected in my first NZ team to compete at the Oceania champs in Townsville this year. Fingers crossed I've done enough to be selected in the team to go to world champs this year as well.
Neelam O’Neill, Shooting Para Sport
I was introduced to shooting as a kid, where my step-father and I used to shoot ice-cream containers and cans on family camps. I was then re-introduced to shooting at age 15, when I competed in the National high-school Small bore competition where we shot .22 rifles. My team placed top 20 and the following year my new team placed first. In 2011, I moved to Auckland for university and discovered air-rifle shooting through Parafed Auckland. I officially joined PASC in 2012 and began competing nationally in 2013. My first overseas competition was for an Australian Grand Prix in Sydney, 2014 and since have traveled to Australia (Sept, 2015), Thailand (Nov, 2017) and UAE (2019) for the World Shooting Para Sport World Cups. I am coached by the 4 time Paralympic legend Michael Johnson and two time NZ Commonwealth representative Ricky Zhao.
Nick Blincoe, Para Cycling
I paralysed my left arm, playing rugby in June 2010. I started cycling 4 years ago after taking part in a development identification camp in 2015. I was suited to Track Cycling and I specialise in the 1km Time Trial and 4000m pursuit. My classification is a C4 para cyclist, and this was recently confirmed at the 2019 Para Cycling Track World champs in Apeldoorn Netherlands. my 2nd World Champs I am new to the sport but have quickly shown great improvements, and I love the opportunities para cycling and para sport has provided to me. I love competing and being able to represent New Zealand.
Sarah Ellington, Para Cycling
My name is Sarah and I have lived in Auckland for my whole life. I love the outdoors, exploring new places with my friends and family. In 2015 I was climbing a tree, where I slipped and fell a mere 3 meters. I landed on my head and broke my T11/12 vertebrate and damaged my spinal cord making me paralyzed from the waist down. I was given a 1-2 % chance of walking again, however I don't like being told what to do and proved the doctor wrong and am happy to say I am walking. I believe everything happens for a reason and not give up, even though it is always the easiest option.
Sionann Murphy, Para Athlete
Bio coming soon…
Tupou Neiufi, Para Swimming
Was in a hit and run accident when I was 2 and a half, and left me with traumatic brain injury and left sided hemiplegia. I started swimming lessons when I was 8, and found I loved the sport, and later on joined a club. 2016 I represented NZ at the Rio Paralympic Games, where I made my first final, and came 7th. I currently hold several national records. On the 17th of February this year in Melbourne, I broke my first world record, in the 50 metre backstroke.