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Paddlers Celebrate International Success


PANUI PAPAHO/MEDIA STATEMENT

Te 13 o nga ra o Kohitatea 2003

KI A:

Chief Reporters Sports Editors Chief Photographers

KIWI PADDLERS CELEBRATE INTERNATIONAL SUCCESS

One of the nation's fastest growing sports will celebrate its international achievements when 1700 paddlers take to the waters of Lake Karapiro from tomorrow (Tues, Jan 14).

Nearly 50 clubs from throughout New Zealand will compete in 414 races over five days at the 13th Smokefree National Waka Ama Championships.

The athletes, mostly Maori and Pacific Islanders and aged from five to over 70, are paddling Polynesian-style outrigger canoes.

Six regions - Te Tai Tokerau (Northland), Tamaki-makau-rau (Auckland), Te Puku o te Ika (Bay of Plenty), Te Uranga o te Ra (Poverty Bay), Hoe Tonga (Wellington) and Ngai Tahu (South Island) - will be represented at the competiton.

The paddlers will compete in singles (W1), six person canoes (W6) and 12 person teams (two W6s together) over distances from 250m up to 1500m.

A tent city will be established on the shores of Lake Karapiro - 23km south east of Hamilton – for competitors and supporters to view the races in comfort.

Despite the family atmosphere, some crews have been training for six days a week over several months in their bid for medals and trophies.

Nga Kaihoe o Aotearoa president Hoturoa Kerr says the regatta will celebrate a tremendous year for local paddlers on the world stage.

Northland's Ngatu Lakers and Mareikura 'Manawaru' Under-16 Girls from Gisborne received World Champion Awards at the 2002 Maori Sports Awards last month (Dec) for their gold medal efforts at the 2002 Waka Ama World Sprint Championships in Tahiti. The winner of Maori Sports Coach of the Year was Matahi (Greg) Brightwell, who is credited with the rebirth of the traditional Maori and Polynesian sport in this country.

Greg is head coach of one of the first waka ama clubs in the country - Mareikura – as well as the waka coach at the Gisborne Institute of Sport for elite young paddlers.

"He's been instrumental in the development of the sport in Aotearoa and has made a significant contribution within his region, consistently working with youth," Hoturoa says.

"The time and energy that he injects into this sport voluntarily goes far beyond the call of duty, and his coaching successes deserve the greatest accolades."

Trevor Shailer from the Health Sponsorship Council says the championship provides a great opportunity to promote the kaupapa of Smokefree, or Auahi Kore.

Smokefree is committed to promoting healthy lifestyles to reinforce the unnatural link between smoking and sports.

"The waka ama nationals is more than a competition – it's an occasion, a chance to catch up with friends, make news ones and have fun.

"Outrigger canoe racing has a strong foundation as a Pacific cultural tradition, and Smokefree is proud to be a part of this tradition."

ENDS

For more information, contact Nga Kaihoe o Aotearoa president Hoturoa Kerr on 021 251 2944; or Mai Media communications manager Vanessa Bidois on 029 9777 838.


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