Gran backs her boy
Hooked on Olympics
Beverley Shirley has a surprising admission for someone who has two Olympic swimmers for grandsons – she can’t swim.
The 85-year-old at Longview Home is granny to Dean Kent, who competed at the Sydney, Athens and Beijing Olympics, and his brother, Steven, who swam in the 4x200m freestyle relay last week in London.
‘‘Proud’’ barely describes Mrs Shirley’s reaction when Steven made the 2012 squad.
‘‘I nearly burst into tears, but I didn’t.’’
Mrs Shirley was centre stage at an Olympics party held at Longview to coincide with the Opening Ceremony on July 27. Children from Hampton Hill and St Francis Xavier schools attended and gave her posters celebrating her grandson.
Mrs Shirley’s Olympic connection goes beyond competing – Steven’s mum, Lorraine, works for the New Zealand Olympic Committee in an administrative role, and his late father, Paul, did the committee’s accounts.
While no swimmer, Mrs Shir- ley did give her family a love of sport. Dean, Steven and their brothers Andrew and David all played representative soccer and cricket. Lorraine and Paul swam competitively, passing on a love of water to their sons – the family was heavily involved in the Titahi Bay Surf Lifesaving Club.
‘‘That was our goal for them, to learn to swim and love it,’’ Ms Kent said.
Steven’s admiration for his oldest brother, Dean, was a huge factor in his future, she said.
‘‘Everything Dean did Steven had to do. As Steven is the youngest he always tried to keep up with the others.’’
Steven had a taste of the Olympics in 2000 when the family saw Dean compete in Sydney. He moved to Auckland two years ago to enrol fulltime in the highperformance Millennium Institute, which pays for his coaching and expenses.
Dean was a brilliant mentor for Steven on his road to the Olympics, Ms Kent said.
Steven was naturally disappointed with his relay team’s eighth ranking in their heats, but is setting his sights on the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and the Rio Olympics in 2016, Ms Kent said. ‘‘He said it just makes him want to do it again.’’
Biggest fans: Titahi Bay Olympic swimmer Steven Kent’s mum, Lorraine Kent, and grandmother, Beverley Shirley, were presented posters and poems about Steven by Tawa schoolchildren as he prepared for his relay event last week.