News & Updates

25 October 2023 • Community

Athletics for Everybody - Will Stedman

Will Stedman found that becoming a member of Port Hills AC played a pivotal role in driving him to success as a regular medallist at major para athletics events. (Credit: Jodi Hanagan)

As part of our Athletics for Everybody campaign we focus on a number of our elite international performers who reminisce about their club athletics memories. Today four-time Paralympic medallist Will Stedman chats about his life at Port Hills AC and why he would encourage other youngsters to give the sport a go.

The camaraderie of training as part of a group with Port Hills AC acted as a major spur for Will Stedman on his journey to becoming a regular medallist on the global stage.

The 23-year-old Christchurch-based athlete, who earlier this year won silver medals in the T36 400m and long jump at the Para Athletics World Championships in Paris, is among one of New Zealand’s leading crop of world-class Para athletes but acknowledges the part his local athletics club has played in her development.

Inspired to take up athletics when in London at the time of the 2012 Paralympic Games – “enjoying the buzz of being in the city at the time of Paralympics is what got me going” – he joined Port Hills AC and started out as a cross country runner, training with the able-bodied runners from the age of 13.

“I really enjoyed it from the beginning,” he says. “I did do a little bit of running myself but to be a part of a big training group was definitely more motivating. I did one or two sessions a week with the cross country squad at Hansen Park on the grass track and I have lots of happy memories there.”

About 18 months or so after taking up the sport the direction of his athletics career changed after featuring in a Paralympics NZ Talent ID camp. In late-2014 he started training with his current coach George Edwards and focusing on Para events as a track and field event his rise was meteoric, winning 400m and 800m T36 bronze medals at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games at the tender age of 16.

Will has since gone on to carve out an outstanding international career. A winner of long jump T36 silver and 400m bronze at the Tokyo Paralympics, he has continued to improve, and he will be looking for more medals at the Paris Paralympic Games next year.

Yet still a loyal member of Port Hills AC – the club still means a lot to the Para athlete.

“Everyone at Port Hills is very friendly and training as part of a group dynamic gave me a good base for my future track and field success,” he explains. “We didn’t have a track here in Christchurch until 2019 and up until that point Hansen Park was my home, where I trained three of four times a week.”

For Will joining an athletics club is something he would whole-heartedly recommend.

“Athletics has so many benefits,” he explains. “It is good for your physical and mental health, it is great way to learn basic motor skills and it is also great fun.”

***To identify your local athletics club go here