Paralympics New Zealand has named a 28-person squad for Tokyo 2020 ©Getty Images

New Zealand’s Paralympic team for Tokyo 2020 were formally presented for the first time and received a special farewell before heading here for next month’s Games.

The country’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern joined in the celebrations, along with the Minister for Disability Issues Carmel Sepuloni, and more than 150 Paralympians.

A total of 28 athletes have been selected by Paralympics New Zealand to compete in six sports, including athletics, canoeing, cycling, swimming, shooting sport and wheelchair rugby.

Holly Robinson, Caitlin Dore, Anna Grimaldi, William Stedman, Lisa Adams, Danielle Aitchison and Ben Tuimaseve have been named as part of the athletics team.

Scott Martlew and Corbin Hart will compete in canoeing, Michael Johnson will participate in shooting sport and Stephen Hills, Sarah Ellington, Eltje Malzbender, Rory Mead, Nicole Murray and Anna Taylor will represent New Zealand in cycling.

Sophie Pascoe, Nikita Howarth, Tupou Neiufi and Jesse Reynolds have been chosen to take part in swimming, while the wheelchair men's rugby team features Hayden Barton-Cootes, Cody Everson, Robert Hewitt, Barney Koneferenisi - chosen to replace Cameron Leslie - Tainafi Lefono, Gareth Lynch, Gavin Rolton and Mike Todd.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to shooter Michael Johnson at the farewell event ©Getty Images
New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to shooter Michael Johnson at the farewell event ©Getty Images

All the athletes selected were called by name at the ceremony at the Weta Workshop in SkyCity and asked to join New Zealand’s Chef de Mission Paula Tesoriero on stage to receive their Pounamu, a greenstone native to New Zealand. 

Last month, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu gifted 580 Pounamu pendants to Paralympics New Zealand and the New Zealand Olympic Committee.
Crafted from one piece of greenstone, the pendant is named "Te Taumata o Agitu - the Pinnacle of Success".

"New Zealand Para-sport has seen staggering growth and success since the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games," Fiona Allan, chief executive of Paralympics New Zealand, said.

"At Athens 2004, we were ranked 10th in the world per capita for medals won.

"By London 2012, thanks to the support of High Performance Sport New Zealand and Paralympics New Zealand members and partners, we were first in the world per capita for medals won.

"We went on to retain this title at Rio 2016. 

"Our Para-athletes are amongst the best in the world.

"We know that their performances will inspire the next generation of Paralympians and drive social change and inclusion for all New Zealanders.

"It gave us all great pleasure to be able to mark their achievements and acknowledge the partners that have made the Tokyo 2020 campaign possible."

The evening included a keynote speech from Ardern, who spoke about the courage, resilience and determination of the Para-athletes and support staff through challenging times and commended them for the inspiration they will give to citizens.

She also wished them good luck on behalf of all New Zealanders.

Fundraising partner Harvey Norman presented a cheque of NZD$300,000 (£152,000/$210,000/172,000) to Paralympic New Zealand.

The special event marked the 39 days to go milestone until the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics Games are scheduled to open on August 24.

"We are focussed on creating the safest possible high performance team environment in Tokyo, while providing the opportunity for our athletes to thrive and succeed," said Tesoriero.

"I look forward to welcoming our first Para athletes into the Village on August 19."