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NZ sports minister wishes Paralympians well for Beijing
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New Zealand Minister for Sport and Recreation Clayton Cosgrove on Tuesday sent a strong message of support to the New Zealand Paralympic team which will be competing in Beijing.

The Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games will take place from Sept. 6-17, and will have estimated 4,000 athletes competing from more than 150 countries and regions.

"I wish our kiwi team all the very best as they take on the world's top Paralympians in their pursuit for medal success and sporting excellence. I will be following the team's progress throughout the Games with great interest," Cosgrove said in a statement.

The 30-strong New Zealand team will compete in athletics, boccia, cycling, powerlifting, shooting, swimming and wheelchair rugby.

"There are some very experienced athletes in this team who are well prepared and have the skill and determination to get top results," said Cosgrove. "New Zealand has done exceptionally well in the Beijing Olympics and we can now look forward to the next exciting round of intense competition with the Paralympic Games."

"The Paralympic Games is an event where New Zealand has achieved great success in the past, and I know this team will continue that tradition and represent our country with pride," Cosgove said.

New Zealand sent its first team to the Paralympics in 1968 in Tel Aviv. New Zealand has stacked up an impressive record at the Games. In recent Games, New Zealand won 10 medals in Athens in 2004 and the team claimed 18 medals in Sydney in 2000.

Middle distance track runner Tim Prendergast has been appointed as the New Zealand team captain. Tim is a three time Paralympic medallist, having won silver in the 800 meters and 1,500 meters in Sydney in 2000 and gold in the 800 meters in Athens. He will be defending his title in the 800 meters in Beijing as well as competing in the 1,500 meters and 5,000 meters.

(Xinhua News Agency September 2, 2008)

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