When Waiuku’s Michael Johnson was asked to catch up with adventure racer, Marcelo Vanzuita, who was running the length of the North Island for Paralympics New Zealand, his initial thought was ‘this guy is crazy!’
But that soon changed after the Paralympic shooter spent nearly two hours chatting to Marcelo at the Tuakau Hotel, after he had spent the day running 60km. Marcelo, who is a Spark Solution Design Engineer, left Wellington on Friday 18 August, armed with only a backpack of clothes, a sleeping bag and his expedition hammock.
It was near the final leg of his journey when he was able to catch up with Michael.“When Paralympics New Zealand told me what this guy was doing, I considered the conditions he has had to endure must have seen him push his body to the max.
Anyone who is willing to do that, while raising funds for a great cause, is absolutely amazing,” said Michael.Michael and Marcelo were able to share stories of their adventures, and Michael wanted to give something in return as recognition of what the adventure runner was doing.
“As he was still running, I didn’t want to pass on something that was too big. So I gave him a t-shirt that only the team from the Rio Paralympics received.
It had all the names of the team members in the shape of a koru on the back. I also gave him a Gold medal that I had won from a cup tournament in New Zealand. It had both a disabled and able-bodied shooter on the front of it, which I thought was pretty symbolic to what he was doing,” said Michael. Michael says Marcelo was quite emotional when he presented the gifts to him, especially the shirt from the Rio Paralympics as that is Marcelo’s home town.
“It was a small gesture to Marcelo, as it is people like him who make such a huge difference in other peoples’ lives. They need to be embraced and supported.”After taking a slight break after the Rio Paralympics, Michael now has his sights set on Tokyo 2020, which will be his fifth Paralympics. His first World Cup tournament will be in Thailand this November, and he hopes to qualify for the World Champs next year.