Northland can now boast its first-ever female national age group table tennis champion after 11-year-old Takaimaania Ngata-Henare returned victorious from the National Table Tennis Championships in Christchurch this week.
Takaimaania says she has trained four days a week for two years to achieve her goal of a national title, "It's really big! I set the goal around when I started when I got more into it and I just wanted to do it for my family."
Coach Kevin Schick said, "She set a few goals, rather big goals and it was pretty daunting at the beginning of the year. But Takai is an outstanding young lady and she proved that she's got all the qualities that somebody of her quality needs to play and win these tournaments."
Takaimaania also won at the Aims Games held recently in Tauranga before heading to the National Championships this week where she beat her archrival in the final to claim the title.
" It was a very close game we both worked very hard trying to get this title. Last year the girl that played me won it but this year I won it", she said with a big smile.
Her mum Moana-Aroha Henare says, "It's important that she remains humble and she is while she continues in her development. Tomorrow we host the National Māori Tournament here in Whangarei and who knows how she will go. But for now, we're heartened by her success and not only for her because this honour belongs to the Northland Table Tennis Association and for all of her family."
Part of the honours board that has remained empty for decades will soon bear her name. And Takaimaania is keen to follow in the footsteps of the famous national champion Netti Trail of Ngāti Hau with her sights already set on the 13-15 year girls national title next year.
Her mum says, "In past years Northland had the top players in the country who were predominantly Māori. But these days there are a very few with Takaimaania one of perhaps only four Māori players here. So we hope this achievement will provide some impetus to attract Māori back to table tennis."
And there's no rest for the new champion with Whangarei playing host to the National Maori Table Tennis Tournament this weekend where Takaimaania will compete in her grade and the open women's grade.
Takaimaania says, "Most important is probably my family, doing it for them doing it for me and having fun."