Christchurch-based Marguerite Christophers has been recognised for her tireless contribution to athlete classification within Paralympics New Zealand and World Triathlon.
Christophers is one of four inaugural recipients of IPC Classification Recognition Awards presented by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).
Dr. Emilie Newell from Canada, Dr. Ludwig Krabbe from Germany, and Norway’s Mette Berg were also recognised at the IPC Annual Classification Meeting in Egypt in October.
Christophers has more than 25 years of experience working in the disability and Para sport sector in New Zealand. During her 14 years with Paralympic New Zealand (PNZ), she has been responsible for the development and implementation of a world leading classification programme.
For the past 15 years, she has worked on a voluntary basis for World Triathlon leading the Classification programme for Para triathlon for 10 years. Christophers contributed to the development of a classification system enabling Para triathlon to debut at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
“Marguerite has done a huge amount not just classifying athletes, but also shaping and improving how classification works,” Paralympics New Zealand CEO Greg Warnecke said.
“She is uncompromising in her quest for the fairest athlete outcome. Her approach and wisdom have inspired so many both here and around the world over the past decades. We will miss her and wish her all the best in her next chapter.”
Christophers, who hails from Wellington but now calls Christchurch home, became involved via an initial career in occupational therapy, time as an elite representative in long distance running and triathlon, a technical official, to global expert on Para sport classification.
“In 1998 I started working in disability sport for the Halberg Trust running after school sport programmes for children with disabilities. I was introduced to Para athletics classification in 2000. Things expanded from there. In 2005 I trained as a cerebral palsy sport classifier in the US. In 2008 I was managing the NZ Para Cycling Team at an event in Columbia and had the opportunity to train as a Para cycling classifier.
“Then in 2008, I was watching my son compete at the World Triathlon Championships in Hamburg. Because of my involvement in classification in other sports, I was asked to give a hand with Para triathlon classification. I was thrown in the deep end! The next year in Brisbane I got formal training and became an international Para triathlon classifier. When I took on the challenge in Hamburg little did, I know it would result in me leading Para triathlon classification internationally, something I am tremendously proud of.”
Speaking of the new awards and their recipients, Tea Cisic, IPC’s Head of Classification, said: “Over the years, the Paralympic Movement has seen incredibly talented and professional individuals, working day-in and day-out to strengthen classification systems and processes, be it on a national or international level. Without these incredible individuals, the Movement would not be what it is today.
“It is through classification that we provide meaningful competition opportunities, and while our focus is to serve the athletes and celebrate their amazing achievements, it is important to recognise the workforce behind the scenes and all their efforts to allow athletes to shine.
“Over the years there are many individuals to whom we have not had the chance to present this kind of an award, and I would like to say a heartfelt thank you to all of them. As the pioneers in classification, they trained and mentored the individuals we were able to recognise today so this is equally a celebration of their work and success.
“To the 2023 award recipients, we are extremely proud and grateful for all you have done, for your professionalism and your tireless drive to make classification better. It is important that all of us involved in Para sport take a moment to acknowledge the importance of their work and invest further efforts to raise the profile of classification personnel within the Movement.”