Athlete George Nepata received the Jaguar Exceptional Performance Award at the Invictus Games in Australia after inspiring fellow competitors and captivating spectators on the wheelchair rugby court this week.
He is the first tetraplegic competitor to take part in the games.
The Exceptional Performance Award honors a stand-out competitor, who has displayed true determination and dedication to achieve exceptional and inspiring performances throughout the games.
Nepata, who was left a tetraplegic after he was injured in a training accident in Singapore in 1989, says he was humbled to receive the award.
“It was something I never expected and just came out of the blue," he said in an interview with the New Zealand Defence Force.
“It was an awesome atmosphere going through the crowd, through the other competitors, just shaking their hands, high-fiving and clapping. It was just an overwhelming and humbling experience.”
The Invictus haka performed at the closing ceremony after Nepata receives award. Source: Facebook
Nepata showed his true determination during a match against Australia, where the New Zealand team was a member down and Nepata pushed through and played the entire game.
As the full-time whistle was about to blow on a green and gold win, in a touching gesture by their opponents, the Australian team passed the ball to Nepata to make sure he got across the New Zealand goal line and score a final try.
Nepata says he was proud because his whānau, including his wife, daughter, other and brother, were there to see him honoured.
“For them to be there has just been overwhelming. I’m so proud,” he says.
“This has been a life-changing moment and experience that I’ve shared with my teammates. I’m just so proud of them all. They’re all helping me.”