Swimming: Sophie Pascoe's coach Roly Crichton humbled by New Year Honour

Christchurch-based swim coach Roly Crichton said it was a "real surprise" to learn he would be among those recognised in the 2018 New Year's Honours list.

Crichton has been made an Officer of the NZ Order of Merit (ONZM) award for services to Paralympic sport.

"I had no idea. It was a real surprise, but you reflect on how old you are and what you've done and it all adds up," he told Newshub.

He's arguably best-known as the coach for New Zealand's most successful Paralympian, Sophie Pascoe. But his involvement in Paralympic swimming goes back 40 years, having represented New Zealand five times at the Games.

He competed in two as an athlete (Stoke Mandeville, UK, in 1984 and Seoul in 1988) and three as a coach (Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016).

As a swimmer, he won one gold, three silver and two bronze medals for New Zealand.

Under Crichton's guidance, Pascoe won four gold medals at the Commonwealth Games, nine Paralympic gold medals and is a multiple world champion.

Being a swim coach was something Crichton never thought would have happened in his youth. Everything changed though when he was involved in a severe accident in his teens, where he broke his back and lost the use of his legs. He had to take up swimming for exercise.

"We'd been playing rugby, been to a party and we have a cut up old beach buggy, and we flipped it, and I was the one who came out the wrong end."

He was the only one in the buggy who was injured, and Crichton has used a wheelchair ever since - which led to some dark days.

"It was very tough. When you're a man in a bloody wheelchair, you wanted to be normal. So you drink heavily, take drugs and you would try and hide."

Then he found success in the pool, where he won six medals as an athlete and got into coaching afterwards.

He first met Pascoe when she was eight, and the pair have worked together since.

"There is a lot of expectation, it's tough on that girl. She's not a robot - she's a human being."

Pascoe's next big event is the World Champs next July, but Crichton has his eyes on success at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

"I would love to go to Tokyo and really do well. We could back out of a number of events and take it easier as Sophie gets older, but we're going to take it on and go for gold."


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