New Zealand Paralympians Greig Jackson and Sarah Powell were celebrated at the sixth community event as part of The Celebration Project in Palmerston North ©Kevin Bills Media

Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) has marked the sixth community event as part of The Celebration Project in Palmerston North.

The Celebration Project will see the achievements of New Zealand’s 209 Paralympians since Tel Aviv 1968 be officially recognised and celebrated in the lead-up to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

In Palmerston North, New Zealand Paralympians Greig Jackson and Sarah Powell came together with their families and friends, Parafed Manawatu and PNZ commercial partners at Toyota New Zealand. 

They all celebrated more than 50 years of Paralympic history in New Zealand, acknowledging the 209 Paralympians that have represented the country and amassed 221 medals.

Boccia player Jackson and swimmer Powell joined a group of Paralympians that have now received their official "numbered" Paralympic pin and certificate. 

Jackson competed at two Paralympic Games: Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008, where he represented New Zealand both as an individual and in a team.

Powell made her sole Paralympic appearance at Athens 2004, reaching the women’s 400 metres freestyle S9 final and achieving a personal best.

The group now totals 63 following The Celebration Project events in Auckland, Whangarei, Hamilton, Tauranga and New Plymouth. 

The official Paralympic "number" is a unique figure only bestowed once a Paralympian has competed at their first Paralympics. 

Athletes are then ordered alphabetically within each Games.

"We were privileged to have two wonderful Paralympians and their families, friends and supporters, from New Zealand Paralympic teams across two Paralympics, including Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008, come together in Palmerston North," PNZ Board member Jana Rangooni said.

"We celebrated Paralympian number 146 Greig Jackson, who competed in Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008, and Paralympian number 151 Sarah Powell, who was Greig’s team mate in Athens 2004."

Para-swimmer Sarah Powell competed at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games ©Kevin Bills Media
Para-swimmer Sarah Powell competed at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games ©Kevin Bills Media

Jackson is known as "The Surgeon", which PNZ claims is the perfect handle for the player of the precision sport of boccia, and is currently New Zealand's number one BC3 player.

When asked how he approaches playing boccia, Jackson said: "I like to be aggressive. 

"Once I'm on the court, I'm not thinking about anything else apart from winning the game. 

"It's the concentration that makes it physically tiring. 

"Each game takes about an hour - there are four ends that normally take about 15 minutes each. 

"I have to stay very focused throughout, both on executing my own game, as well as watching and deducing what my opponent is trying to set up."

Jackson won a bronze medal at last year’s Chinese Taipei Regional Open in Taoyuan, becoming the first person to win an individual boccia medal for New Zealand having dominated the sport nationally for the past 19 years.

PNZ has now staged six events and will stage a further six community events around New Zealand, within the communities that are said to have openly supported their Paralympic heroes over the past 50 years. 

The project has been made possible thanks to funding and support from the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board, New Zealand Chambers of Commerce and Toyota New Zealand.

The PNZ team is also using today and tomorrow to open and share the Para Sport Pop Up with the Palmerston North public at The Square.

The Para Sport Pop Up, a new and innovative initiative, is travelling around New Zealand in the lead-up to Tokyo 2020, telling the story of New Zealand’s 50-year Paralympic history, as well as aiming to increase awareness of Para-sport and positively influence community perceptions of disabled people.

It includes a variety of activities, such as a blind football virtual reality experience, a handcycle challenge and a chance to try out wheelchair basketball.