Award­honours com­mu­nity hero

The Hutt News - - SPORT - MATTHEWTSO

When Shaka Sola clapped eyes on a horse paddock next to the rail­way tracks, he im­me­di­ately saw the po­ten­tial to help kids in his com­mu­nity.

‘‘We started here, throw­ing off a sheet of ply. That’s it!’’ says the for­mer Samoan Olympic dis­cus thrower.

It is in this paddock in Lower Hutt at his Sola Power Throw­ing Academy that he trains kids to throw, with the aim of de­vel­op­ing them as ath­letes and keep­ing them out of trou­ble.

For his ef­forts, Sola re­cently won the na­tional Ware­house Com­mu­nity Hero Award at an event in Auck­land.

He was qui­etly pleased with the award, say­ing it was not just for him.

‘‘I never started this to get rec- og­ni­tion, [the award is] not just for me but the vol­un­teers.

‘‘It’s nice to be recog­nised, es­pe­cially as it high­lights what we are do­ing.’’

A heavy plant op­er­a­tor by trade, Sola started teach­ing kids to throw the shot put and dis­cus at the now de­mol­ished Waiwhetu School in 2011, hop­ing to keep them out of trou­ble.

He has 30 kids train­ing on his win­ter ros­ter, with some com­ing from as far away as Welling­ton, Ti­tahi Bay and Kapiti.

In 2013, he moved the pro­gramme to Moera near the rail­way lines and over­bridge where he has built a ‘‘world stan­dard’’ fa­cil­ity.

‘‘If you give kids a fa­cil­ity that is world stan­dard, they will be­gin to per­form at world stan­dard.

‘‘When I was an ath­lete I had nowhere to train. Places to throw in Welling­ton [were] very lim­ited so [I had to] sneak around a bit.

‘‘That ad­ver­sity built the dream of [es­tab­lish­ing this fa­cil­ity],’’ he said.

The paddock now boasts two con­crete throw­ing pads - one for shot put, and the other equipped with a mesh net for the ham­mer and dis­cuss.

The academy re­cently added a large shed which houses weights and other equip­ment.

Sola hopes to turn the shed into an in­door throw­ing fa­cil­ity and gym.

He has built the academy’s fa­cil­i­ties to cater to his am­bi­tion of de­vel­op­ing cham­pi­ons - the shot put ring is 25 me­tres, well be­yond the cur­rent men’s world record of 23.12m.

‘‘If [one day] some­one want’s to throw for the world record, they can do it here.’’

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