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Cancer battling wool champ comes back for more

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From Doug Laing, media officer, Shearing Sports New Zealand

February 28, 2014

Cancer battling wool champ comes back for more

Multiple World and Golden Shears woolhandling champion Joanne Kumeroa has made a stunning return to her grand stage by competing in today’s Open woolhandling heats, a year after thinking cancer would mean she’d never see “the Goldies” again.

A year ago she featured in an emotional Golden Shears, with doctors telling her she had only nine months to live, but after competing today she said in Masterton’s War Memorial Stadium: “I didn’t believe it. After everything everyone did last year I really started fighting. They were all hurting. The battle was on.”

On Monday, doctors in Melbourne confirmed “half the cancer is gone” and Kumeroa observed: “All they can say is they’re astonished.”

They’d be even more astonished if they knew what was to come next, Kumeroa having no plans for a trip back to Masterton until she got home from work on Wednesday to find air tickets gifted by protégé and fellow Kiwi shearer Te Atakura (Tuts) Crawford, who was already off to compete at the Shears.

From Whanganui but based in Australia and now working mainly as a wool industry instructor, the 44-year-old winner of two individual and three teams World Championships and six Golden Shears Open woolhandling finals, was the centre of emotion at the Goldies last year when she used what she thought was her last pilgrimage to muster support for cancer research.

A special women’s event was held, and in a dramatic moment new Golden Shears Open shearing champion Rowland Smith, whose mother had died of cancer, gifted his $3000 winning purse to the cause.

She returned to Australia for the Ducks on the Pond fundraiser in an historic woolshed at Harrow, Vic., nine days later, and her 12 months of effort in the face of her adversity have raised $68,000.

As it happened, today’s appearance was not her last at the Golden Shears either.

Although she’d competed just one other time since being runner-up last year in the strongest final field in the history of the Golden Shears Open woolhandling event, when in the throes of her chemotherapy, she is 11th among 16 qualifiers for tomorrow morning’s quarterfinals, after 46 competed in the heats.

Regardless of the outcome, there’s no slowing-down, for Kumeroa has to fly to Brisbane to continue her jobs with Australia Wool Innovation and the Australian Shearing Contractors Association.

The benefactor Crawford, who in a rush trip from Australia in October won the New Zealand Merino Championships Senior final in Alexandra, a rare triumph for a woman and perhaps even rarer for a shearer so outsized by the animals, was not so fortunate.

Of the 47 in the Senior shearing heats, Crawford, from Te Karaka, could manage just 32nd, missing out on a place in the 18 for the semi-finals.

But it doesn’t mean the Goldies are over for her either. Tonight she shears in this year’s Women’s Invitation event.

ENDS

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