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France to NZ, playing a crucial role in sports leadership

Updated: Jun 20

Welcoming Yann Roux, CEO of Disability Sport Auckland (DSA), to Purposely, where he shares his organisation's mission and his remarkable life journey, from France to New Zealand, and from a fitness coach to leading a charity and the disability sport network.


Yann is also the Manager of the Wheel Blacks, New Zealand's wheelchair rugby team, and Chair of the national disability sport network.


Hailing from northern (French Alps) France near the Swiss border, Yann dreamed of becoming an astronaut or a fighter pilot when he was young. In fact, he applied for pilot school. Growing up, Yann developed a passion for sports, firstly Karate, then Table Tennis then American Football American Football, which is a minority sport in his native France, and then Judo. He soon discovered CrossFit, a high-intensity fitness regime that also encourages lifestyle changes. It was a perfect fit for Yann, aligning with the technical elements he loved to apply himself to, and his clean-living habits. Yann is happy to suffer and work hard, which is evident in his impressive physique, fueled by the two CrossFit sessions he does daily.


The charity he leads daily, Disability Sport Auckland, provides sport, recreation, and play opportunities for people living with disabilities in Auckland, New Zealand's largest city. They offer access to a range of different sports, from traditional athletics and swimming to wheelchair rugby and basketball, as well as rock climbing, table tennis, and Boccia, a ball sport like pétanque and bowls.


What began as the Auckland Paraplegic and Physically Disabled Association in 1966 had a simple yet profound goal: to foster games, sports, and recreation for paraplegics and individuals with disabilities, while catering to their general welfare. That very year, the Association sponsored and organized a national team of wheelchair athletes to compete at the Commonwealth Paraplegic Games in Jamaica, showcasing their pioneering spirit.


Two years later, the Auckland Association joined forces with fellow organisations, sending a team to the Paraplegic Games in Israel. This collaborative effort paved the way for the formation of the New Zealand Association, now known as Paralympics New Zealand.


At a time when sports for individuals with physical disabilities, especially those in wheelchairs, were considered radical, high-profile athletes like Pompey Heremaia worked tirelessly to overcome stereotypes and serve as role models for younger athletes. A milestone moment in the organization's history was the construction of the recreation Gym at the Otara Spinal Unit in 1977. This not only provided a permanent home for our athletes and teams but also proved to be a catalyst for disabled sports, as patients in the unit were often recruited to join the activities taking place.


Yann is a purpose drive leader that is passionate about sport and the power participation in sports must transform lives and help people reach their full potential.

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