Scott and Corbin win selection for Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games

Paralympian #198 Scott Martlew and Para athlete Corbin Hart have been selected by Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) to the New Zealand Paralympic Team heading to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games which begin on 24 August. The announcement was made in Auckland at the North Shore Canoe Club  today and marks the fourth group of Para athletes to be announced to the New Zealand Paralympic Team.

Paralympian #198 Scott Martlew (Christchurch) will be optimistic of a strong showing at his second Paralympic Games after 2 podium finishes at the last 2 World Championships. Martlew took up kayaking at the age of 16. The following year he sustained a tear to his left quadricep playing rugby. The tear became infected with a flesh-eating bacteria and his leg had to be amputated. Just 10 months following leg surgery he won a gold medal in the four-man surf canoe at the NZ Surf Lifesaving Championships. It was an emotional moment for Martlew and the crew – which included his brother and two other close mates – who had achieved the feat 12 months earlier.

Martlew (pictured above right with Hart left and Deputy Chef de Mission of the New Zealand Paralympic team Lynette Grace) made his Paralympic debut at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games competing in Para canoe, the KL3 200m finishing 8th. In 2018 he was reclassified to sport class KL2, following this he won silver in the KL2 200m at the 2018 World Championships in Portugal. Martlew concluded a highly successful 2019 by winning KL2 200m bronze at the World Championships in Hungary.

Regularly training on the Avon River, Martlew has continued to impress in 2021. Competing against able-bodied athletes at the NZ Canoe Sprint Championships, he showed his versatility by winning K2 200m and K2 1000m bronze medals alongside Ben McCallum. Martlew also competes internationally in the Para va’a (outrigger) canoe as a VL3 athlete and will do so in Tokyo. Martlew has a single limb deficiency.

Para athlete Corbin Hart (Auckland) was born and raised on the Hibiscus Coast and has enjoyed a meteoric rise to his first Paralympic Games. A surf lifesaving enthusiast in his youth – in late-2019 he lost his right leg in a civil road accident. In July last year he acted on the advice of friend Caitlin Regal, the four-time World Championship canoe sprint medallist, to give kayaking a go. Quickly finding the sport met his physical and competitive goals Hart connected with coach, Gavin Elmiger, at North Shore Canoe Club and began training with a view to competing.

Last October – just 3 months after he first sat in a kayak – Hart made his competitive debut at the Blue Lake 1 regatta in Rotorua. There he won the Division 2 K1 500m A Final and finish second in the K1 200m A Final. Training up to 16 sessions a week he returned for Blue Lake 2 on Lake Tikitapu and paddled an impressive sub-40 second time in a K1 boat for the 200m distance.

Intending to focus his efforts on qualifying for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games, Hart instead switched his emphasis on trying to make the NZ Paralympic Team for Tokyo on the recommendation of Leigh Barker, coach of Paralympian and fellow team member Scott Martlew.

Hart headed to the ICF Canoe-Kayak Sprint and Para Canoe World Cup in Hungary. On his international debut he placed 7th in the KL3 200m final in 43.78 to qualify a boat for New Zealand in this event at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

Possessing a fierce determination and desire to succeed coupled with a positive attitude Hart will make his Paralympic debut at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Hart has a single limb deficiency.

Scott Martlew said, ““It is always a proud moment to be selected to represent New Zealand – not only for myself but for all those who have supported me throughout my journey. I’m very eager to get on the start line and show the world what I can do. It has been a long time since I’ve raced internationally and I’m looking forward to what will be my second Paralympic Games.”

Corbin Hart said, “Given that I took up the sport less than a year ago, it is a little surreal to think I’ll be competing at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. But I’m enormously proud to be given the chance to compete for New Zealand and I hope to be able to do my absolute best in Tokyo.”

Paula Tesoriero (Chef de Mission, NZ Paralympic Team) said, “We are thrilled to welcome a further 2 Para athletes to the New Zealand Paralympic Team and to see an experienced Paralympian such as Scott paving the way for new Para athletes such as Corbin to become a Paralympian when they take to the water in Tokyo. A huge privilege and honour.”

Fiona Allan (Chief Executive, PNZ) said, “It is fantastic to announce our fourth group of Para athletes selected to represent New Zealand at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games today. Scott and Corbin will be looking to make their mark on a sport that has only been on the competition schedule since Rio 2016. Further to this, Scott will be the first NZ Paralympian to compete in the Para va’a event. They are both such driven and committed Para athletes who will no doubt, receive huge support from all Kiwis at home.” 

Tom Ashley (Chief Executive Officer, Canoe Racing New Zealand) said: “We are delighted that New Zealand will be represented by two athletes at this year’s Paralympics. We congratulate both athletes, as well as their support teams and families, for achieving this milestone. It is exciting for our sport to see Corbin stepping up so quickly as a new campaigner, joining experienced performer Scott Martlew. No doubt it will be great for both athletes to have a teammate, and it will make for exciting viewing here in New Zealand as we cheer both paddlers on from home.”

The New Zealand Paralympic Team has competed in Para canoe since the Para sport made its debut on the competition schedule in Rio 2016. Paralympian #198 Scott Martlew was the first NZ Paralympian to compete in Para canoe and produced outstanding results improving his world ranking to 8th.

The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will be held from Tuesday 24 August to Sunday 5 September 2021 and will include 22 Para sports on the event schedule and up to 4,400 Paralympians competing. The Paralympic Games is the largest event worldwide for driving social change and inclusion. 

Images: Getty Images