Raylene Bates was awarded the PNZ Order of Merit ©PNZ

Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) have awarded the organisation’s Order of Merit to long serving para athletics coach Raylene Bates.

The award was made at the PNZ Annual General Meeting, with Athletics New Zealand having nominated Bates for the honour.

Bates has served PNZ and Para athletics for over 40 years as both a competitor, administrator, official and coach, in both voluntary and paid roles.

This has included working with children to veterans, with roles across national and international levels.

Bates led the New Zealand Para athletics team at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, where eight athletes competed in 15 events.

The team won nine medals at the Games, achieving four Paralympic and 11 national records.

Bates has been credited for helping to increase opportunities for Para athletes and integrating Para athletics into numerous training camps, as well as national and international events.

She becomes the 29th official to receive the Order of Merit, which was established in 2001 to recognise exceptional service.

The annual general meeting saw PNZ congratulate Para athletes for their performances in 2019, with acknowledging the challenges for athletes and staff due to the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games to 2021.

The organisation said one of the highlights of last year was Sophie Pascoe and Adam Hall being announced as the winners of a new Attitude Award, which celebrated the New Zealand Paralympians of the Decade at the summer and winter Paralympic Games.

Sophie Pascoe was named as New Zealand's Summer Paralympian of the decade at the end of 2019 ©Getty Images
Sophie Pascoe was named as New Zealand's Summer Paralympian of the decade at the end of 2019 ©Getty Images

PNZ said that following their 50th anniversary celebrations in 2018, and to further acknowledge and celebrate New Zealand’s 209 Paralympians, the organisation launched The Celebration Project last year.

The project saw PNZ host seven community receptions in Auckland, Whangarei, Hamilton, Tauranga, New Plymouth and Palmerston North and one special event in Germany, with 63 Paralympians acknowledged for their part of New Zealand Paralympic history and presented with an individually numbered pin to recognise their achievements.

The PNC also said their Para Sport Pop Up, established in 2019, has been following The Celebration Project events around the country as well as appearing at other community events.

The Para Sport Pop Up was hailed as an "amazing success" as it helps to educate the public and school aged children about PNZ and Para sport.

People have been able to try wheelchair basketball, virtual reality blind football, boccia and hand cycling.

School children have also been able to complete a Para sport quiz and have their photo taken with Someity, the Tokyo 2020 mascot, and to have interactions with Para athletes and Paralympians.