Described as a leader with an exceptional pedigree in sport, Raylene’s success as a high performance lead and coach has seen New Zealand confirm six Para athletics qualification spots for Paris 2024, an outstanding achievement with one year to go until the Games begin.
New Zealand Para athletics competitors Anna Grimaldi (long jump, 100 m), Danielle Aitchison (100, 200m), Will Stedman (long jump, 400m), Holly Robinson (javelin, shot put), Lisa Adams (shot put) and Mitch Joynt (200m) secured the qualification slots for New Zealand, with team member Joe Smith (100m) achieving a personal best.
Raylene describes the World Championship campaign as one of the best she has ever had the privilege of leading.
“For our athletes it was like a coming of age and I believe there were three key reasons for what was the best team performance ever,” says Raylene.
“Firstly, our youngest athlete was 22 years old, so it was a team of well-established athletes who knew what they were doing and were performance focussed.”
She says the second reason was a result of an agreement signed between Athletics NZ and Athletics Australia for both non-disabled and Para athletes to go into a pre-competition camp in Montepellier, France. “Our Para athletes shared resources at the camp and again in Paris during the competition, which had a huge positive impact on the team.
“The third important factor was everything we needed in the pre-competition camp was in one place – the track, accommodation, gym, recovery rooms, meals were all on site in a secure environment which meant we did not need to travel to training. It was a truly unique environment and meant the athletes were really relaxed, very focused and didn’t have to rush anywhere.”
Raylene says the team will use the Montepellier camp next year before going into the Athlete Village in Paris. However, she won’t be joining the team there despite coaching Tokyo F46 Javelin gold medallist, Holly Robinson. “My decision to apply for this (Chef de Mission) role was based on agreement with Holly and we will have mechanisms in place to ensure her campaign is not compromised.
“As Chef de Mission I won’t be specifically associated with the Para athletics team although I will be working to support the whole New Zealand Paralympic Team for Paris.”