Kiwi world champ off to first Paralympics

August 11, 2021

Kiwi world champ off to first Paralympics

Two-time world champion para-cyclist Eltje Malzbender with her support team. Photo: supplied

A two-time world champion in para-cycling says she is excited to compete in the sport she loves on the grandest para sport stage there is.

Eltje Malzbender was selected last month to represent New Zealand in para-cycling for the Tokyo Paralympics.

It’s her first Paralympics and she is New Zealand’s first selected female T1 trike cyclist.

T1 is a para-cycling classification for athletes with severe locomotive dysfunctions, and insufficient balance to use regular bicycles.

Malzbender said her selection was a good result coming off successes in 2019 when she won gold medals at the UCI Para-Cycling Road World Championships in Holland and Para-Cycling Road World Cup in Belgium.

“What I look forward to the most is competing and being satisfied with my performance. That’s what I enjoy,” she said.

Her coach, Michael Bland, also welcomed the news.

“It was a degree of predictability when we realised, we had a special athlete performing on the national and international stage, so we focused on Eltje’s ability to qualify for Tokyo and is great it’s now confirmed,” he said.

Malzbender had been a competitive cyclist for 30 years but in 2016 was the victim of a possible hit and run in Waikato leaving her with a severe traumatic brain injury.

The tricycle was a way for her to cope with loss of independence and give her new goals and enjoyment.

“In my initial rehab the doctor told me I couldn’t walk, talk or ride a bike again but now I’m a double para-cycling world champion and about to compete in Tokyo.

“If I can bring a message from my experience, it would be anyone can overcome obstacles in life with perseverance and discipline,” Malzbender said.

Bland called Malzbender’s rebound an "incredible’ journey of resilience and success.

To prepare for the Paralympics Malzbender has had training camps in Auckland, New Plymouth and her home base at Cambridge’s Avantidrome with many hours of tricycling, pool, gym and stationary bike exercises.

Long-time supporter John Blake says these are important for Eltje’s para-cycling performance.

“The pool gives her ability to jog without support and the walking bike exercises different body parts that she can’t do because of her lack of balance and coordination without it,” he said.

“The gym develops her balance, coordination, strength and conditioning.”

Malzbender’s also had a camp in Mount Maunganui working alongside Para-cycling NZ’s sport physios to prepare for her competing in Tokyo’s current high climate.

“That’s involved being exposed to sporting challenges in high humidity, then Eltje continuing with heat climatisation after exercising by taking hot showers, spas and saunas,” Bland said.

The Tokyo Paralympics take place from August 24 to September 5 with Malzbender’s pinnacle event on August 31.

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