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News posted on Tuesday 30th April, 2024

Paralympian #13 the late Eve Rimmer celebrated and acknowledged

A young man and a middle-aged woman, both light skinned and fair haired are holding a certificate in this professional portrait

Photo: Wendy and Chris Gibb receive the PNZ Order of Merit on behalf of Eve. Credit Jason Agnew.

Paralympics New Zealand has awarded the PNZ Order of Merit to the late Eve Rimmer BEM, for her outstanding service to PNZ and Paralympic sport in New Zealand.

Paralympian #13 Eve, who passed away in 1996, was a trailblazer for Para athletes and a fervent advocate for disability rights, who became a household name in New Zealand through an outstanding sporting career.

Across four Paralympic Games, Eve won 14 medals – 11 in athletics with eight of them gold. Her total medal haul has only been surpassed in recent years by Dame Sophie Pascoe.

After a car accident at 15 left Eve paralysed, she showed fierce determination to learn to walk again. She found freedom in sport, initially in swimming and kayaking. But it was as a field athlete that Eve became the best in the world. Among her successes were:

  • Tel Aviv 1968 Paralympic Games – gold in javelin, silver in shot put and bronze in discus; silver in 50m freestyle swimming (Eve was the sole Kiwi medallist).
  • Heidelberg 1972 Paralympic Games – gold in pentathlon and shot put, silver in javelin and discus.
  • Toronto 1976 Paralympic Games – gold in pentathlon, discus, shot put and javelin.
  • Arnhem 1980 Paralympic Games – gold in shot put, silver in archery.
  • First Paralympic athlete inducted into the New Zealand Hall of Fame in 1990
  • Runner-up in the New Zealand Sportsman of the Year Awards in 1972
  • Awarded a British Empire Medal in 1973 for her work promoting Para sport.

Throughout her life, Eve was a passionate advocate for disability rights. A national councillor on the NZ Paraplegic and Physically Disabled Federation (now PNZ), she established several sporting clubs in the central North Island with Paralympian #14, Jim Savage. She organised the Games for the Disabled in Whakatāne, later renamed the Eve Rimmer Games.

She also founded the Disabilities Resource Centre in Whakatāne, constantly lobbying for better wheelchair access, and was a tireless public speaker raising public awareness of disability.

The PNZ Order of Merit was announced at the sports awards of the Festival of Disability Sport, hosted by Parafed Bay of Plenty, on Saturday. The Chair of PNZ, Jana Rangooni, presented the PNZ Order of Merit pin and certificate to Eve’s daughter Wendy and her grandson Chris.

Wendy Gibb said Eve’s family were delighted their mum’s contribution to Para sport had been recognised in this way.

“Our mother would have been thrilled to receive this award. She inspired so many with her resilience, determination and spirit. Her journey was one marked by perseverance as she overcame obstacles that would have stopped most of us in our tracks.

“On top of everything, she had to learn how to cope raising two young children with her limited mobility, as she refused for many years to use a wheelchair.”

Jana Rangooni said:

“Eve is recognised as offering an open and frank portrayal of life as a disabled person at a time when such matters were rarely discussed openly. Few people shifted the needle more in New Zealand for greater acceptance and understanding of disability like Eve. She left a great legacy within the Paralympic Movement and beyond.”

Established in 2001, the PNZ Order of Merit has been awarded to 31 individuals.

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