Chop­ping to the top

Central Otago Mirror - - CENTRAL NEWS - By EMMA DAWE

CROMWELL ax­e­man Brad Pako reck­ons if he had a dol­lar for ev­ery time some­one asked him to chop them a load of fire­wood, he’d be a rich boy.

But ac­tu­ally, it’s not a silly idea to get the 14-year-old to chop you a load of wood — he’s prov­ing to be one of the best young ax­e­men in the coun­try af­ter some top re­sults in re­cent com­pe­ti­tions.

The young­ster rates his sec­ond place in one of the biggest com­pe­ti­tions in the South Is­land — the Darcy Sey­mour Me­mo­rial chop, in Ika­matua on the West Coast in March — as one of his top two high­lights of his short ca­reer.

Brad was the only ju­nior ax­e­man to make the fi­nal.

The other high­light was tak­ing out four firsts at last month’s Wake­field King of the Moun­tain Chops, in Nel­son.

It’s hard to be­lieve the young­ster has only be­ing wood chop­ping for 18 months — he got in­ter­ested in the sport when he was liv­ing in Karamea, on the West Coast, and saw it be­ing demon­strated.

He told his dad he wanted to give it a go, and within days he was be­ing trained up by vet­eran ax­e­man Bill Simp­son.

Two months later, Brad com­peted in his first com­pe­ti­tion, tak­ing home two third plac­ings — he was only 12 at the time.

‘‘I knew I was go­ing pretty good, so I thought I’d con­tinue with it,’’ he said.

And he’s not the only one who thinks he’s go­ing ‘‘pretty good’’ at the sport.

When he can, he spends time train­ing with world cham­pion ax­e­man Adam Lowe, in Hok­i­tika, who’s al­ready told him he’s got nat­u­ral tal­ent and the abil­ity to go far in the sport.

Brad said he had learnt a lot from the world cham­pion, and ev­ery­one in the sport had taken him un­der their wing.

His spe­cialty event is un­der­hand chop­ping, which means he’s stand­ing on the block while he chops.

It might sound dan­ger­ous, but Brad, who’s nearly 2m tall and weighs 104kg, said he hadn’t come close to in­jur­ing him­self on the block yet — in fact the only in­jury he’s had was when he sliced his fin­ger while clean­ing his axe.

He’s the first to ad­mit he ini­tially thought wood­chop­ping was just about smash­ing the wood as quickly as you could, but has since learned there’s a lot of skill and tech­nique in­volved in the sport, in­clud­ing learn­ing to chop dif­fer­ent types of wood.

He doesn’t have a favourite type of wood, but says he can def­i­nitely no­tice the dif­fer­ence be­tween dif­fer­ent blocks of wood.

‘‘But at the end of the day, it’s just wood, you’ve still got to chop it off.’’

His short-term goal is to make the New Zealand un­der21 team.

It might sound un­re­al­is­tic con­sid­er­ing he’s only 14, but Brad thinks he’s got a good chance.

‘‘Lots of peo­ple think I can do it, so I want to show them I can.’’

Axe ace: Cromwell ax­e­man Brad Pako, 14.

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