Australian Paralympian looks to NZ for inspiration

By Taroi Black

Australian Paralympic silver and bronze medallist, Rheed McCracken is calling on his country to put more support into children with disabilities. This comes after the wheelchair racer attended the Halberg Junior Disability Games in Auckland.

Australian Paralympist Rheed McCracken on "track" - Photo / Invacare NZ

"I've never been able to experience this event in Australia it's something that I wasn't able to do. This is the stepping stone - the building blocks to be able to compete at the paralympics, to have the opportunity to really show what the country has to offer for children with disabilities", he said. 

The Halberg Games includes 150 athletes from around New Zealand (aged 8-21 years) competing in 12 regional teams across 20 different sports including; swimming, wheelchair basketball, blind cricket, blind and wheelchair rugby and athletics.

McCraken giving young Rawiri Tristam some pro tips - Photo / Invacare NZ

"We really need to get some Australian athletes over here and experience it. We have such good athletes that really want to be a part of something."

The 21-year-old was born with cerebral palsy, which causes extreme tightness in his leg muscles.

Once Rheed discovered wheelchair racing it was within a year that would see him become a star in the Paralympics, winning two silvers and two bronze medals in London 2012 and Rio 2016.

This weekend the Halberg guest speaker inspired many aspiring New Zealand athletes, but he says he’ll be the one leaving extra motivated.  He now hopes one day to help develop a programme like New Zealand's initiative for Australian kids.

McCraken and crew from junior development camp - Photo / Invacare NZ

"I'm still a reasonably young athlete and I think that if we can help inspire young athletes in any way continue with their sport is awesome."

Rheed attended a junior development camp, but it was a chance meeting with Channel 7 media personality, David Koch, that would propel him into Paralympic stardom.