Rio Paralympics 2016: Jason Eales targets glory with New Zealand's para-shooters video

DAVID WHITE/FAIRFAX NZ

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

Jason Eales gained New Zealand citizenship to compete in the Paralympics.
Mark Taylor

Jason Eales gained New Zealand citizenship to compete in the Paralympics.

Jason Eales was targeted for his sharpshooting. 

The 39-year-old South African moved to New Zealand six years ago and became a marked man. 

Paralympics New Zealand had Eales on its radar as a man capable of success.

And after shooting for five years, two of those competitively, Eales fired himself onto the international scene with an individual bronze and team gold medal at last year's International Paralympic Committee World Cup in Sydney.

NZ's para-shooting team with Paralympics NZ chief executive Fiona Allan. From left, Greg Reid Michael Johnson and Jason ...
Phil Walter/Getty Images

NZ's para-shooting team with Paralympics NZ chief executive Fiona Allan. From left, Greg Reid Michael Johnson and Jason Eales.

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Eales moving from target to target

That success earned him a place at this year's Paralympic Games in Rio.

New Zealand will have three para-shooters in Rio, with Eales joining Christchurch's Greg Reid, 54, and legendary Auckland shooter, Michael Johnson, 42, who's won a host of World Cup events as well as two bronze medals at the Paralympics in 2012 and 2008, in London and Beijing. 

Jason Eales stares down the barrel in practice.
Mark Taylor/Fairfax NZ

Jason Eales stares down the barrel in practice.

Johnson won a gold medal in Athens in 2004, in the R4 10m Air Rifle event, and set a world record score for the Mixed 10m Air Rifle in Poland last year.

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Eales has come a long way since his first international competition in Croatia last year, where he finished 10th in the R5 10m Air Rifle Prone event.

"Paralympics NZ contacted me through my interest in going to the international games and world cups," he said.

"There was a big process I had to do first to get my NZ citizenship, which they helped me out with based on previous track record in competitions."

He's originally from Pietermaritzburg, just west of Durban, and when his parents emigrated to New Zealand in 2010, he decided to follow later that year.

Cycling was always something Eales had a keen interest in, and he initially looked at taking up para-cycling before he pursued his career in para-shooting.

While riding up a hill in his hometown in 1994, Eales suffered a crash that left him with a cracked skull and three crushed vertebrae at the top of his spine. The accident caused him to have partial tetraplegia.

He was in a hospital bed for weeks, already starting to think about his fight to recover.

Eales walked out of hospital five months after his accident. He's still recovering to this day and slowly progressing and improving.

"I just get on and do it. There's nothing really too hard I can't do. I just get on with it," he said.

Eales lives in Hamilton and works as a software test analyst.

His desire to compete in sport has never diminished, and he first approached Parafed Waikato in 2012 when he eventually settled on shooting after trying other para-sports.

He competes in the SH2C class, which is the same as New Zealand team-mate Johnson, who he said had been a source of inspiration given his success since his gold medal in Athens 12 years ago.

Eales' classification allows him to sit at a table, with his gun resting on a spring.

And exposure to competing with the world's best should have well prepared for the pinnacle event in the para-shooting calender.

"I've learned a lot from it, and I'm hoping it leaves me in good stead for the Paralympics," said Eales. 

Eales' and Johnson's competition begins on Wednesday 14 September (NZ time). Greg Reid shoots for glory the following day. 

AT A GLANCE:

Name: Jason Eales

Age: 39

Event: Shooting 

Classification: SH2C

Disability: Loss of muscle power (Spinal cord injury)

Record: Won gold and bronze medals at the IPC Shooting World Cup in Sydney, in only his second World Cup event.

Personal: Works full-time as a software test analyst in Hamilton

 - Stuff

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