Awardhonours community hero
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.’’