Nine more New Zealand Paralympians have been honoured through the fourth Spirit of Gold event to be held on the run-up to Tokyo 2020 ©PNZ

Nine athletes from Tauranga are the latest to have their achievements celebrated by Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) as part of the Spirit of Gold celebration project.

Over the next 12 months, in the lead-up to Tokyo 2020, the initiative will see the achievements of New Zealand's 209 Paralympians since Tel Aviv 1968 officially recognised.

PNZ Board member Jana Rangoon said: "We were privileged to have nine wonderful Paralympians and their families, friends and supporters, from New Zealand Paralympic teams since Tel Aviv 1968, come together in Tauranga.

"There was Paralympian number 14 Jim Savage and Paralympian number 16 Rodney Wright who competed in the very first New Zealand Paralympic team that competed at Tel Aviv in 1968."

Savage, who had polio, competed at the first four Paralympics – 1968, 1972, 1976 and 1980 – in archery, athletics and table tennis.

He won men's shot put bronze medals in 1972 and 1976.

Wright, one of the leading lights in the formation of the body that is now PNZ, competed in 1968 in archery and swimming.

Other Paralympians honoured at the Tauranga event – the fourth of its kind to be held – were three Alpine skiers in Lorraine Te Punga, who competed in 1988, and Mark Weeks and Kevin Aleksich, who were at the 1992 Games.

Dave MacCalman matched Savage for Olympic longevity, taking part in athletics in 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004.

A former top basketball player, he who was the first New Zealander to play in the Australian National League and he earned a scholarship to the United States.

Four-times Paralympian Jim Savage pictured with Paralympics New Zealand Board member Jana Rangoon in Tauranga ©PNZ
Four-times Paralympian Jim Savage pictured with Paralympics New Zealand Board member Jana Rangoon in Tauranga ©PNZ

After an accident he returned to New Zealand and began to coach basketball while taking up Para-athletics. 

He won a gold and a silver in the javelin and a gold in the pentathlon.

Two other Paralympians involved at the event competed at Sydney 2000 – boccia player Stacey Roche and swimmer Sean Tretheway.

Roche has recently come out of 17 years' retirement and is in training for the Paris 2024 Paralympics.

The late Ross Hynds, who competed at the 1976, 1980, 1984 and 1992 Games in athletics and archery, was represented at the ceremony by his two daughters.

Hynds, who died in 2015, won two silvers and two bronzes in his Paralympic career.

All nine Paralympians joined an elite group that have now received an official numbered Paralympic pin and certificate.

This group now totals 55 following the Celebration Project events in Auckland, Whangarei and Hamilton.

The official Paralympic number is bestowed after an athlete has competed at their first Paralympic Games and is unique.

Athletes are ordered alphabetically within each Paralympic Games.

New Zealand Para-athletes have brought home a total of 221 medals since competing in Tel Aviv.