Ten­nis player flies in to grab pri­mary ti­tle


Young Kaik­oura ten­nis player Oliver Burra made the most of a ‘‘fly­ing visit’’ from his home­town when he picked up the Marl­bor­ough pri­mary school ti­tle in Blen­heim on Wed­nes­day.

Rather than take the ar­du­ous seven-hour in­land road jour­ney to par­tic­i­pate in the an­nual Marl­bor­ough pri­mary schools tour­na­ment, 12-year-old Burra trav­elled north in a char­tered air­craft. He then en­sured the money spent on the plane ride was not in vain, claim­ing the boys’ ti­tle de­spite be­ing seeded sixth among a strong field. It is though he is the first Kaik­oura player to win a ti­tle at the pri­mary champs for over quar­ter of a cen­tury.

His mother, Noriko Burra, who is chair­per­son of the 30-strong Kaik­oura Ju­nior Ten­nis Club, said the club had re­ceived Lot­tery fund­ing to cover the travel costs. Ini­tially it was hoped that more Kaik­oura play­ers would be on the plane but an un­timely school camp spoiled that plan, leav­ing just Burra and 13-year-old Brid­get Smith to make the trip.

The pro-ac­tive club has strug­gled to get pro­fes­sional coach­ing for their top per­form­ers since the Novem­ber 2016 earth- quake, the lengthy trip to Blen­heim mak­ing it dif­fi­cult. How­ever, they have se­cured ex­tra fund­ing to pay for coaches to drive up from Christchurch ev­ery week and the play­ers have thrived. They have also re­ceived help from Whale Watch and the Kaik­oura Lions.

Noriko said her son had prac­tised hard for the event.

The Marl­bor­ough tour­na­ment, staged at the For­rest Marl­bor­ough Ten­nis Cen­tre at­tracted 59 en­trants and fea­tured some high­qual­ity en­coun­ters.

Burra claimed top spot in the boys’ di­vi­sion with a 9-4 win in the ti­tle de­cider over sec­ond seed Joseph Sand­ford-Jury, from Bo­hally. In the semi-fi­nal Burra de­feated top seed Lucca Wise­man of Bo­hally 9-6 while Sand­fordJury downed fel­low Bo­hally stu­dent and eighth seed Nico El­wor­thy, 9-3. Wise­man went on to take out third place with a 6-0 win over El­wor­thy.

The top year six stu­dent was Felix Parkin­son of Ra­paura, who ended up in fifth place over­all. The con­so­la­tion win­ner was William Poff of Bo­hally.

In the girls di­vi­sion, No 1 seed Lily Parkin­son of Ra­paura had a com­fort­able 9-1 win over school­mate and sec­ond seed Olivia Mar­fell, Parkin­son drop­ping only two games over her four matches on her way to the ti­tle.

Parkin­son de­feated Ra­paura’s Mil­lie Bushell 9-1 in the semi­fi­nals while Mar­fell beat Ella Sow­man, also of Ra­paura, 9-4 in the other semi. Bushell de­feated Sow­man 6-3 to claim third po­si­tion. The lead­ing year six stu­dent was Ella Sow­man while the girls con­so­la­tion win­ner was Katie Hedg­man from Bo­hally.

The top two open boys and girls, as well as the top year six boy and girl, are el­i­gi­ble to at­tend the South Is­land Pri­mary Schools Tour­na­ment in Ti­maru on Novem­ber 27-28.

Kaik­oura player Oliver Burra in ac­tion at the Marl­bor­ough pri­mary school cham­pi­onships on Wed­nes­day.

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