February 2023, Articles

Para sports benefit from HPSNZ Performance Pathways project

Performance Pathways projects around the country are already presenting opportunities to young pre-high performance athletes, including Para athletes and coaches such as emerging Christchurch wheelchair racer Sarah James.

Paralympics New Zealand Para Sport Pathway Manager Dale MacDonald is thrilled to be liaising with the HPSNZ Pathways team around the Performance Pathways project.

“We’re working towards integrated Performance Pathway systems within regions and thereby not only increasing development opportunities for Para athletes and coaches, but also disseminating Para sport knowledge more widely throughout New Zealand,” she says.

Young T53 wheelchair racer, Sarah James, stole the show recently in Canberra breaking 12 senior and U20 national records across two competitions and now has her eyes set firmly on the National Track and Field Championships to be held in Wellington in early March.

But it is the longer term benefit of athletes such as Sarah joining the Performance Pathways project which has Athletics NZ Para Lead Raylene Bates excited.  “Sarah has recently registered on the Performance Pathways system and following her online induction she will now get stuck into the all-important planning phase with her independent facilitator, Athletic NZ’s Kim Mickle.”

Raylene says the Performance Pathways project will play a key role in helping Sarah achieve her goal of heading to the Los Angeles 2028 Paralympic Games.

“Emphasis in the project is on holistic planning before performance support is provided.  This is essential to identify from the outset what is important for athletes like Sarah to help them build towards a specific goal, always keeping the long term in mind.  We know Para athletes can progress quickly through their performance pathway so planning and performance support are extremely important.”

HPSNZ Performance Pathways Christchurch Lead, Andrew Ellis, agrees with Raylene’s comments on the role the Performance Pathways project will play for athletes like Sarah.

“She is an extremely exciting young athlete and her success to date is outstanding.  She is a perfect fit for the Performance Pathways project.”

Sarah has the added complication of living in Christchurch while her main coach, Blanche Herbert, is based in Perth. The pair met in Canberra for the first time.  She also gets coaching support from Dunedin-based Raylene. It is an aim of the project to ensure her circle of support is well connected and aligned.

The Christchurch Performance Pathways project now has 37 athletes across nine sports, including Para athletics and swimming.

With HPSNZ Performance Pathways Pilot Projects also underway in Wellington and Dunedin, to be followed shortly by Southland, Hawke’s Bay and Northland, Head of Performance Pathways, Tracey Paterson, says she is excited at the opportunities that are already presenting for our Para athletes and coaches.

“A key benefit of the Performance Pathways Project for Para athletes is it enables them to think about how they can create sustained success in sport and life. Athletes and their coaches work with an Independent Sport Facilitator and are assisted to develop their pathway within their chosen sport and while for some this requires time, for others they can see pinnacle event performances within a four-year horizon.

“The focus of the project is to ensure athletes and their coaches are transition ready, well planned with strong support networks.  We are working closely with Sport NZ, Paralympics New Zealand, and the NSOs and RSOs which integrate Para sports into their organisations.”

Wheelchair racer Sarah James