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The start of something extraordinary

Paralympic swimmer wins national award

Champion Paralympic swimmer Mary Fisher (21) has won the Attitude ACC Supreme Award at the 2014 Attitude Awards on December 3 – World Disability Day.

In its seventh year, the national awards celebrate the excellence and achievements of Kiwis living with a disability. This year’s black tie gala was held at Auckland’s Viaduct Events Centre and hosted by TV news presenter Simon Dallow.

Overcoming strong competition from more than 20 other national finalists, Mary took out the Youth Award category and was then selected from the winners of the eight award categories to win the overall Attitude ACC Supreme Award. She was also a finalist in the Sport Performer of the Year Award category.

Born without irises in both eyes, Mary is blind and can only see shapes, colours and has limited light perception. Yet the young woman’s undeniable talent has seen her shine in the pool and achieve phenomenal success in Para-swimming.

Mary brought home a Gold medal, two Silvers and a Bronze at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, five Gold medals and a Silver at the IPC World Championships in Montreal last year and six Gold medals at this year’s Pan Pacific Para-Swimming Championships in California (setting four Oceania records in the process).

She was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit and named Wellington Sportsperson of the Year 2013 – huge honours at such a young age. But it’s Mary’s accomplishments outside of the pool which have contributed to her success.

In between her gruelling training programme and competitive events, Mary supports other young developing para-swimmers and has been a youth mentor at the Blind Foundation since 2007. She works with vision-impaired teenagers and their families – even giving them an insight into the possibilities of independent living by inviting them to visit her Newtown student flat.

Winning the Attitude ACC Supreme Award is testament to Mary’s determination and positive attitude. “Hopefully we can change people’s perceptions and prove that with the right mind-set and support networks people with impairments can achieve exceptional things across all areas,” she says.

The Awards have grown out of the Attitude TV series, which tells stories about and for people living with disabilities, and screens on TV One on Sunday mornings.

Attitude Awards Trustee Dan Buckingham, a member of the elite national wheelchair rugby team the Wheel Blacks, says the Awards are about raising expectations around what is achievable for people living with disabilities.

“Last night we celebrated winners across a range of categories, but really the aim of the Awards is to change peoples’ perceptions about this broad and diverse sector of society. So in that sense, all 24 finalists are winners and fantastic role models,” he said.

Chief Executive of ACC Scott Pickering says ACC is proud to be principal sponsor of the Awards for the seventh year running, including sponsorship of the Attitude ACC Employer Award and the Attitude ACC Supreme Award.

“Congratulations to all the 2014 Attitude Awards winners. They are high achievers and their determination and spirit is inspirational.”

Fiona Allan (Chief Executive, Paralympics New Zealand) said, “This year’s Attitude Awards were a celebration of inspirational disabled New Zealanders and highlighted the outstanding achievements of our Para-Athletes and Paralympians.

“Paralympians Mary Fisher and Corey Peters are world class athletes and that was recognised last night at the highest level, topped off with Mary winning the overall Attitude ACC Supreme Award.”