Rio Paralympics 2016: Chris Sharp and New Zealand's para-sailors aim to surprise video

DAVID WHITE/FAIRFAX NZ

NZ Paralympians talk about their hopes and dreams for the up coming Paralympics in Rio.

Chris Sharp is still recovering from the motorbike accident that left him in a wheelchair. 

But that hasn't stopped him competing in a sport he's loved since he was a young boy growing up in Kerikeri.

Sharp is bowman for New Zealand's three-man para-sailing team, which is ready to spring a few surprises at the Paralympic Games in Rio.

Chris Sharp will compete in his first ever Paralympic Games at the age of 58.
Hagen Hopkins

Chris Sharp will compete in his first ever Paralympic Games at the age of 58.

Experience could be key for Sharp and his crew, which is something they're not short of.

READ MORE:  NZ selects three-man sailing crew

The boat's mainsheet man, Richard Dodson, is 57, with the helm manned by Andrew May, who's 40.

Chris Sharp, left, with Paralympics New Zealand chief executive Fiona Allan, and his crew, Richard Dobson (second front ...
Phil Walter/Getty Images

Chris Sharp, left, with Paralympics New Zealand chief executive Fiona Allan, and his crew, Richard Dobson (second front right), and Andrew May.

Sharp will turn 58 just a few days before the Paralympics begin on September 8 (NZ time), meaning he's the oldest member of New Zealand's 29-strong team. 

He's not the oldest at the Games, though, with 73-year-old Australian shooter Libby Kosmala set for her 12th Paralympics.

Now based in Auckland, Sharp's whole life is dedicated to his sport, and this year's 15th Summer Paralympics will be his first. They come six years after he was left paralysed from the waist down when he crashed his motorbike into a tree.

Sharp, May and Dobson aboard their boat, the Maserati.
Phil Walter

Sharp, May and Dobson aboard their boat, the Maserati.

"I'm sitting in a wheelchair as a result of having a very strong passion for motorbikes," he said. 

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"The accident took me out of the frame for a couple of years and I've been recovering ever since. I'm still recovering now."

Sharp's been involved with sailing since he was eight, but he hadn't been in a boat since his accident until he met up with crew mate Dodson and the Kiwi Gold Sailing team a few years ago.

And then Paralympics New Zealand were keen to get him back into competitive sailing.

"I've always been a sailor, but I got into this when I was minding my own business and they chased me down.

"This seemed like it was too much for me a few years ago but I'm here. The sport now has become my whole life."

Sharp and his crew raced in last year's World Championships in Melbourne. They finished as New Zealand's best placed team.

Their eighth-placed finish among a fleet of 18 boats secured a berth in this year's Paralympics, where they'll compete in the three-person keelboat event (Sonar). 

They will have May at the helm. He's also a paraplegic and raced in the Paralympics in 1996 and 2000, with Dodson, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, as the mainsheet man.

Dodson was part of New Zealand's successful America's Cup team in 1995 and 2000 and he's the former strategist for Team New Zealand. 

New Zealand has never won a medal in para-sailing since the Paralympics began in 1968. 

So Sharp and his crew have the know how, but they'll have to be shipshape when they're battling with other crews on the water at Rio's Marina da Glória, which hosted a warm-up event for Paralympic teams earlier this year.

"Our jobs are all quite unique and separate from each other," said Sharp.

"We're an experienced team and we've got a fast boat. We're looking forward to the fact that people aren't going to pay a lot of attention to us.  

"We can actually make an inroad into this competition before they realise what they're up against."

The first two Sonar races begin at 6am and 7:30am on Tuesday 13 September (NZ time). 

AT A GLANCE:

Name: Chris Sharp

Age: 57

Event: Sailing

Classification: Sport Class 4

Disability: Loss of muscle power (Paraplegia)

Record: 8th - Sonar Class, 2015 Para-Sailing World Championships

Personal: Prior to his accident, Sharp was an arborist who loved to hang from trees with a chainsaw in his hand.

 - Stuff

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