Topic: Kapa Haka

Kapa haka teen aims for paralympic glory

By Iulia Leilua

Secondary school kapa haka and Ngā Manu Kōrero speech competitions are great platforms for spotting te reo Māori talent like Kings High School student, Kiringāua Cassidy.

The 15-year-old from Dunedin has excelled on stage as a kapa haka performer with Ngā Waka Kōtuia and will be competing at the 2018 Ngā Manu Kōrero nationals in Gisborne this September.

Born with spina bifida, Kiringāua says he hasn’t let his disability hold him back from achieving his dreams, including training to become part of NZ’s Paralympic ski team.

“Skiing is something I'm very passionate about,” says Kiringāua, “I like being up on the mountain, just me and my thoughts, while I'm coming down the slope."

His father is Komene Cassidy, a te reo Māori tutor and advocate.  He says his son’s disability doesn’t define who he is.

“We didn't know much about spina bifida when he was born,” says Komene. “What was important was that the doctors said that he would be okay, he would live.  He may not be able to walk but besides that, he lives a normal life.”

Komene and his wife Paulette raised Kiringāua and his three brothers with te reo Māori as their first language.  They say his focused mindset was something he was born with rather than a habit that they cultivated in him.

“He has many aspirations for himself,” says Komene, “Since he was a child, he's done his own thing, paved his own way forward.”