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Ruth Dyson pays tribute to Neroli Fairhall

14 June 2006 Media Statement

Ruth Dyson pays tribute to Neroli Fairhall

Disability Issues Minister Ruth Dyson has paid tribute to athlete and Commonwealth Games gold medal winner Neroli Fairhall, whose funeral is tomorrow in Christchurch.

"Neroli Fairhall was an inspirational woman for all New Zealanders, she did what many thought was impossible - she competed against the best in the Commonwealth and won gold in archery in 1982."

"Two years later in Los Angeles she became the first paraplegic athlete to compete at the Olympic Games. Neroli was an example of how a disabled person can overcome the low expectations of others and achieve excellence."

Neroli Fairhall became paralysed from the waist down after a motorcycle accident in her twenties. Through determination and dedication just three years later she was selected for the 1972 Heidelberg Paralympic Games in track and field. At the 1974 Commonwealth Paraplegic Games in Dunedin she competed in archery.

She went on to compete regularly at Paralympic Games until Sydney 2000. Highlights included the 1980 Games in Holland where she won gold and set a world record which stood for 12 years. She was also awarded an MBE for services to the sport of archery.

"She inspired many people, and was a staunch advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. It was a privilege to know her and my sincere condolences go out to her family and many friends."

Neroli Fairhall died in Christchurch on Sunday, aged 61.


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