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Neroli Fairhall, 61; Archer Was the 1st Paraplegic in Olympics

June 13, 2006|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Neroli Fairhall, 61, a gold medalist in archery at the 1982 Commonwealth Games and the first paraplegic athlete to compete in an Olympics, died in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Sunday, the country's Olympic Committee announced. No other details were released.

Fairhall, who had been paralyzed from the waist down in a motorcycle accident in 1969, took up archery and won a gold medal for New Zealand at the Brisbane Commonwealth Games. She placed 35th when she broke ground for disabled competitors at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

She characterized her adjustment to paralysis as "learning to live all over again. Learning to do all the things you did before, but from the chair," The Times reported in 1984. She said it took her about three years.

She was also a gold medalist at the Paralympics and a national champion and record-holder throughout her career.

Fairhall's appearance at the Olympics was questioned when some rivals suggested she enjoyed an advantage in shooting from a sitting position.

The controversy waned when, asked if that was so, she replied: "I don't know. I've never shot standing up."

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