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News posted on Thursday 9th May, 2024

Five incredible Para swimmers selected for Paris 2024

Montage of 5 swimmers in the water with swim caps on

Paralympian #164 Cameron Leslie, a multiple Paralympic champion and world-record holder, leads a formidable team of five exceptional Para swimmers who have been selected for the New Zealand Paralympic Team for Paris 2024.

Leslie is joined by Paralympian #205 Jesse Reynolds, with the two Para swimmers having competed at an astounding 5 Paralympic Games between them. Meanwhile Lili-Fox Mason, Gabriella Smith and Joshua Willmer will make their Paralympic debuts in the French capital from 28 August – 8 September 2024.

The highly experienced Leslie is thrilled to make a comeback to the Paralympics. Based in Whangārei, Leslie achieved gold medals and set world records in Beijing 2008, London 2012, and Rio 2016, but was unable to participate in Tokyo 2020 due to the imminent birth of his second child.

“It’s my fourth Paralympics, but my first in eight years, so it’s very exciting.

“My career has looked very different at each of my Games. This time I’ll have my wife and kids watching me. Doing them proud has driven my desire for the last four to five years. And if it’s enough to be on a podium, that would be epic!”

Leslie, who fosters Para swimming talent around the country in his role for Swimming New Zealand, is also thrilled to see new Para swimmers heading to Paris.

“It’s exciting to have three debutants! Gaby, Lili-Fox, and Josh have seen a bit over the past two World Championships, but the Paralympic Games are another beast. I’m looking forward to competing alongside them and encouraging them to go hard, be proud, and enjoy the ride without losing focus of their goals and why they’re there.”

Paralympian #205 Jesse Reynolds will compete at his third Paralympic Games in Paris. A versatile swimmer with strong results in several events, Reynolds can’t wait to show what he can do. Reynolds lives in Hamilton and competes in the S9 sports class.

Thrilled to make their debuts in Paris are Christchurch’s Lili-Fox Mason and Gabriella (Gaby) Smith, and Auckland’s Joshua Willmer.

For Mason, selection is a victory over injury, and a testament to the 18-year-old’s extraordinary determination to succeed. An injury to her back which she acquired at the Singapore Para Swimming World Series in 2023 put all her Paralympic dreams in jeopardy. The S10 swimmer fought her way back to her earlier trajectory, earning her spot on the team. Mason had childhood leukaemia, leading to partial paralysis in her right leg.

Mason’s friend and training buddy 17-year-old Gaby Smith has been swimming since a few months of age. She demonstrated her Paralympic potential at the 2023 Para Swimming World Championships in Manchester, where personal best performances led to 7th and 8th place finishes.

Both S10 swimmers, Smith and Mason are delighted to continue their journey together in Paris.

Joshua Willmer shot to fame when he claimed a gold medal in the SB8 100m Breaststroke in the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. His exuberance endeared him to both the New Zealand public and his teammates in Birmingham. Now 19, Willmer holds the national record in the same event following a strong performance at the 2023 Para Swimming World Championships.

Paralympics New Zealand CEO Greg Warnecke says:

“What an achievement from these five Para swimmers, including three debutants – and from Swimming New Zealand, who have nurtured them along their pathway. This is a very special announcement, and Kiwis will be excited to see some of their Paralympic heroes named today.”

Swimming New Zealand CEO Steve Johns says:

“The five selected swimmers show the fantastic depth of talent we are growing and developing across New Zealand. We have multiple Paralympians at the peak of their careers, as well as some brilliant young debutants who we hope will have multiple Games ahead of them. When you add these five to the nine swimmers selected for the Olympic Games, New Zealand will truly be showing its greatness in Paris.”

The five Para swimmers join six Paralympians and Para athletes already named to the NZ Paralympic Team in the sports of Para athletics, Para table tennis and Para equestrian.

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