Topic: Youth

Elite athletes a great example for young Maori

By Dean Nathan

Northland played host to some of the country's elite athletes at the North Island BMX Championships in Whangarei this weekend.  And who better than the Māori stars of the sport to set the example for our young up-and-coming riders.

The event began on Saturday morning with a traditional welcome before the New Zealand Mighty 11s laid down the challenge to their Australian counterparts haka style.

William Kaipo is the president of the Whangarei BMX Club, "As you can see, everyone's into it. There's a big family environment, there is good whanaungatanga around the sport.  Even though Māori are a minority but still Māori are some of the most talented BMXers here."

The North Island Championships also signals the return to training and competition for those competing at the elite levels of the sport including Olympian Sarah Walker whose last competitive outing was at the world championships in July where she competed in the elite women's final.

Sarah says, "The feeling of self-worth and the self-belief that you get that you can face anything is really, really empowering.  That's probably one thing I remember growing up was being able to go and travel New Zealand to all these different places and ride BMX all in different towns and I've actually raced in Whangarei quite a few times and it's really cool to be able to see the country like this."

At 17 years of age, Maynard Peel was the 2016 world champion and has tribal affiliations with the Te Aupōuri people of the Far North, "I feel if we get more of our people into the sport, we're gonna blow it away. I hope myself I can do that to inspire other children as myself to get into the sport and give it a go.  I definitely believe that lots of Māori people can be very successful in this sport."

The New Zealand Mighty 11s were seeking redemption after both teams lost their titles in Australia back in June.  The boys' team was trailing on day one and dropped points in each of their races on day two to finally go down.  But it was the girls' team who came through victorious to reclaim their age group title.

Mr Kaipo says, "There are Olympic gold medallists, there are world champions. One of our own that affiliates to the North. Maynard Peel was world No.1 last year and they're here riding and mingling and rubbing shoulders with all of our kids, so it's great."