News & Updates

9 September 2021 • High Performance

Anna's Dream Team

Anna Grimaldi celebrates after winning gold in the long jump T47 final of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Anna jumped a distance of 5.76m to set a new Paralympic record. (Photo: Getty Images)

Anna’s Dream Team

Anna Grimaldi provided one of the most memorable moments of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games following her successful defence of the women’s long jump T47 title she had first won five years earlier at Rio 2016. In her words the 24-year-old Dunedin-based jumper identifies the key role her support team have made on her journey back to the top of the podium.

I’m super proud of my support team, they have all come together when I needed them the most. I really appreciate all the extra work they have put in. They attended meetings they were not paid to be at only because they knew I needed them. Everyone stepped up and I’m very fortunate to have had the right team on board.

Brent Ward – Coach

I first met Brent attending a training camp in 2013 and maybe a month or so later I started training with him – and we have working together ever since. It has been a long journey but throughout that time he has given up so much of his time and never asked for anything else in return. He is so knowledgeable, has so much experience and on top of that he is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. He is the reason why I’ve grown as a jumper and why my technique has transformed. Over time we have adapted our coach-athlete relationship. I now have more input into my training and what I require, although it is Brent that very much runs the programme. We are such a good team. He gave up so much to compete in Tokyo. He has a family in New Zealand, so I was super stoked he took the time to travel out to support me. To have Brent in the stands when I won gold (in Tokyo) was probably the most special part about my victory.”

Mikey Jacobs – HPSNZ Strength and Conditioning Coach

Mikey has also played a humongous part in how I’ve changed over the past few years. Like Brent he is very good at collaborating with other people and pulling in other resources to help. We had a vision of jumping big but it was Mikey who pushed me in that direction and got me moving. He set no limits on what I could achieve.

He has made me really open-minded to what is possible. He set some pretty ambitious gym goals, which at first I laughed at – but I have gone on to achieve nearly all of them. He has great trust in me and has worked on my weaknesses. You have to be open to being good and Mikey has really brought that to the table.

Natalie Fraser – HPSNZ Athlete Life Advisor and Mental Skills Coach

Nat has played a huge part in my journey to the person I am at the moment. I’ve changed so much physically but also mentally and that is because of Nat. She has been there for me throughout some of the most important moments in my life, and been there to helped guide me through them. She has equipped me with the tools needed to help overcome challenges and has made me more open to trying new things. In the past she basically scraped me off the floor. She has heard me say some ridiculously average things, but Nat was always there to listen and be part of my journey. We meet weekly and more often than not we don’t talk about sport because I’m not just Anna who does athletics, I’m Anna who has a life, and friends and family and a partner and has other things in her life rather than just jumping into a sandpit. Having her guidance and direction has been hugely influential over the past five years.

Helen Littleworth – HPSNZ physio and Richard van Plateringen – podiatrist

The pair work really well as a team and were vital in helping me overcome a long-term foot injury. I wanted to overcome the problem so badly – not only for my athletics career but also for my future and just to be able to jog and to be able to do basic recreational pursuits. I did everything they asked of me, even though some stuff sucked because it was so boring! We took the rehabilitation really slowly but that was because of the state of my body and that they needed to rebuild it from scratch. I can’t thank them enough for their work. Without their guidance and patience I don’t think I would have been able to make a full recovery from the injury.