The New Zealand Paralympic management team make no bones about the expectations of the 2012 team, with both Chef de Mission Duane Kale and High Performance Director Mal Humm reaffirming their desire for eighteen medals to be boarding the flight bound for the other side of the world come September the 12th.
Whilst eighteen medals might seem like a steep ask for a team of just 24 athletes, both men are confident the selection criteria means that’s a calculated expectation.
“Our selection criteria was pretty black and white to be honest, it was put up a medal winning performance here in London or put up a top 6 and be a medal prospect for Rio, we’ve got no tourists here”, said Humm.
What colour they might be hasn’t been discussed but one of the seven sports New Zealand will compete in stands well above the rest in expected deliverables.
The Aquatic centre should see the kiwi flag hoisted more times than any other venue during the games, as many as 12 times if Kale and Humm’s predictions are to come to fruition.
19 year old Sophie Pascoe is without doubt the headline act, but the supporting crew are worth the ticket price alone. Rebecca Dubber, Cameron Leslie, Daniel Holt, Aine Kelly-Costello, Daniel Sharp, Mary Fisher and even thirteen year old Nakita Howarth are all capable of a podium spot in London.
High Performance director Mal Humm believes it’s by no accident that New Zealand’s swimming contingent are in the strong position they’re in, “It’s a known fact that the bulk of our medals are likely to come from our swim team, we have a group of 8 who are all top 5 in the world and swimming really well, so there is the expectation that the bulk will come from them, backed up by our bike team who are all in form and have competed well at the last world champs."
“I don’t think it’s any fluke we are in the position we are in now, we have a talent identification programme, development programme that’s seeing young athletes from the age of five, six and seven, and we're targeting them for four to eight years down the track."
Humm also believes Pascoe’s 4 medal heroics in Beijing have contributed significantly to the increased interest in the discipline. “We had Sophie Pascoe win her four medals in Beijing, she was the only female athlete and now we have five female athletes [competing in the pool] so it comes back to inspiration as well."