News & Updates

31 January 2024 • Para Athletics

Kiwi Para athletes impress in Australia

Sarah James set six open and six U20 New Zealand records across two meetings in Canberra.

A group of New Zealand Para athletes excelled in Australia last month by setting staggering 11 national senior records and 15 national age-group marks to prove the Para segment of the sport is in buoyant shape on the road to the 2024 Jennian Homes New Zealand Track & Field Championships in Wellington (14-17 March).

Three New Zealand athlete travelled across to compete in Canberra at the Summer Down Under Wheelchair Series on 20-22 January. At the super-fast AIS Athletics Track, Gabrielle Wright (Auckland) smashed national T54 open and U20 400m and 800m records while Sarah James posted New Zealand T53 open and U20 marks for the 100m, 400m, 800m and 1500m in what proved a highly successful meet for the small but select trio of Kiwi athletes, which also included Jaden Movold.

Athletics NZ Para Lead Raylene Bates was “thrilled” with the results and added: “This was a great opportunity for our leading wheelchair athletes to compete on a fast track against some good athletes. Sarah just keeps bringing those times down and is now knocking on the door of a place in major international team. Gabby’s performances too were hugely impressive because she broke the 20-year-old national record of Madeline Wenmoth.”

Ten Para athletes – six of whom were in Canberra to complete the official classification process – then competed at the high-quality ACT Championships in which no less than half the Kiwi contingent registered national records.

The improving James once again excelled setting national open and U20 record marks for the 200m and 800m with 2020 Tokyo Paralympic javelin F46 champion and 2023 World Para shot F46 silver medallist Holly Robinson plundering a New Zealand open record in the latter event of 11.74m.

Taranaki-based Milly Marshall-Kirkwood maintained her upward trajectory by bettering the national F57 discus open, U20, U19, U18 and U17 records. Adding to the Kiwi record-breakers were teenage below the knee amputee athlete Josh Tia (Wellington), who registered a national U20, U19 and U18 records in the men’s shot F64, and Josh Chisholm (Otago), who set a national men’s shot F40 mark.  

“It was an immensely successful trip,” added Raylene. “The athletes competed in fields with excellent depth and took away lots of learnings. For Sarah and Gabby in particular, it will give them confidence to chase those qualification times for the World Para Athletics Championships. Meanwhile for Josh Chisholm and Holly (Robinson) it will give them belief there is a lot more there as well. For Josh (Tia) it was a rare outing in the shot, but it will also make him realise he too has a lot of potential in that event.”

List of New Zealand athletes to set New Zealand records at the Summer Down Under Series and the ACT Championships.

Summer Down Under Series – Canberra (20-22 Jan)


Sarah James (Canterbury)

  • 100m T53 Open and U20 – 18.71 (0.1m/s)
  • 400m T53 Open and U20 – 1:09.52
  • 800m T53 Open and U20 – 2:26.66
  • 1500m T53 Open and U20 – 4:45.80

Gabrielle Wright (Auckland)

  • 400m T54 Open and U20 – 1:07.74
  • 800m T54 Open and U20 – 2:21.75

ACT Championships – Canberra (26-28 Jan)


Sarah James (Canterbury)

  • 200m T53 Open and U20 – 34.33 (-0.3m/s)
  • 800m T53 Open and U20 – 2:21.69

Milly Marshall-Kirkwood (Taranaki)

  • Discus F57 Open, U20, U19, U18, U17 – 18.14m

Holly Robinson (Otago)

  • Shot Put F46 – 11.74m


Josh Tia (Wellington)

  • Shot Put F64 U20, U19, U18 – 8.86m

Josh Chisholm (Otago)

  • Shot put F40 Open – 5.11m