Fab four mak­ing most of big time

Hawke's Bay Today - - Sport - Hal­berg Games Anen­dra Singh

The short and tall of it is Maia Jones just hap­pens to be a bun­dle of en­ergy poised to take life to ex­cit­ing new heights.

For Jones, sim­ply com­pet­ing at the an­nual Hal­berg Games with three other phys­i­cally dis­abled and vis­ually im­paired young Hawke’s Bay ath­letes was just an­other defin­ing step in build­ing a ten­sile tem­plate.

“I haven’t been to a com­pe­ti­tion be­fore,” says the 11-year-old from Napier who lapped up ev­ery­thing from the time Gover­nor-Gen­eral Dame Patsy Reddy de­clared the three-day games open dur­ing a cer­e­mony at King’s Col­lege in Auck­land last Fri­day.

“It was great fun and a re­ally good ex­pe­ri­ence,” says Jones, who is ex­cited about the prospects of go­ing to the games next year.

The games in­cluded a pa­rade of ath­letes, karakia, light­ing of an of­fi­cial flame and an ath­letes’ oath be­fore the clos­ing cer­e­mony last Sun­day with the pre­sen­ta­tion of tro­phies and medals.

Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern was among other guests who ad­dressed 150 ath­letes, aged from 8 to 21, rep­re­sent­ing 12 re­gional teams across 20 dif­fer­ent codes such as swim­ming, wheel­chair bas­ket­ball, blind cricket, blind and wheel­chair rugby and ath­let­ics.

Hav­ing had a taste of the games, which Maori TV per­son­al­ity Te Arahi Maipi hosted, Jones is keen to do more as a “pro­vi­sion­ally clas­si­fied” swim­mer in fu­ture games.

“I love be­ing in the wa­ter be­cause it makes me feel good,” says the young­ster who was born with achon­drapla­sia, which is more com­monly re­ferred to as “dwarfism”.

Stand­ing 108cm, she of­ten finds her­self ver­ti­cally chal­lenged in the game of life but it’s noth­ing she can’t fix with a broad smile and a pretty please for help.

Con­versely she equally en­joys the ad­van­tages that a short stature of­fers.

“I can fit into small spaces and I can just walk un­der things that my friends have to bend to do,” says Jones, who also plays net­ball and bad­minton.

Akin to two other team­mates out of a con­tin­gent of four, she came away with a par­tic­i­pa­tion medal with Sam Har­vey, of Pon­garoa, near Dan­nevirke, and Joseph Curry, of Hast­ings.

Har­vey, 12, com­peted in the power chair race while Curry, 13, par­tic­i­pated in 100m sprint, 100m swim­ming, bocce and shot put.

Kimi Ora Com­mu­nity School pupil Curry, who has a birth de­fect that left him with­out dig­its on his dis­abled right arm, was com­pet­ing in his sixth games where he fin­ished sec­ond in the 100m sprint.

“I get to meet dif­fer­ent peo­ple from dif­fer­ent places,” says Curry, who “gets on very well with one hand”.

His mother, Cath, en­cour­ages him to have a go at myr­iad ac­tiv­i­ties.

“He’ll try any­thing and ev­ery­thing,” she says of Curry who saw Ardern at the games but had al­ready met her at a school camp last year.

“She’s very nice,” says the school­boy.

Cath says her son looks for­ward to the games which of­fer him a chance to catch up with ath­letes from other re­gions who sup­port each other.

Napier Boys’ High School year 12 pupil Guy Har­ri­son claimed four first places — in the 25m freestyle and back­stroke as well 50m and 100m freestyle swim­ming events. He was sec­ond in the 75m medley.

The 17-year-old, who has cere­bral palsy, won the 800m race in ath­let­ics and was run­ner-up in the 400m, 200m and 100m track events.

That gave Har­ri­son the ti­tle of sec­ond best ath­lete over­all at the games.

“It was a huge hon­our meet­ing the Prime Min­is­ter and we had a good chat,” says the Year 12 pupil. “She’s a very nice lady.”

Har­ri­son is de­lighted that para ath­letes will re­ceive the same level of fund­ing as other able-bod­ied ath­letes at the next Olympic Games.

“It is nice to see the Gov­ern­ment is recog­nis­ing our hard work and train­ing,” he says.

North­land, Auck­land, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Gis­borne, Taranaki, Manawatu, Welling­ton, Can­ter­bury and Otago/South­land teams com­peted with the sup­port of their re­gional Parafed.

The games in­clude mas­ter classes, a film fes­ti­val and other ac­tiv­i­ties.

The Flight Cen­tre Foun­da­tion ran a Nu­tri­tion Mas­ter Class while In­vacare brought Aus­tralian wheel­chair rac­ing Par­a­lympian Rheed McCracken who joined an “Ath­lete Mas­ter Class” with Par­a­lympians Re­becca Dub­ber, Holly Robin­son and Para ath­let­ics coach Ray­lene Bates.

PHOTO / PHOTOSPORT

Guy Har­ri­son (left), Joseph Curry, Sam Har­vey and Maia Jones chill­ing out at Kings Col­lege, Auck­land, last week.

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