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SkillsActive scholarship supports Māori sports star

SkillsActive scholarship supports Māori sports star

Achieving impressive results both off and on the badminton court, Erena Calder-Hawkins is this year's recipient of the $5,000 Skills Active Māori Sports Scholarship.

Erena was presented with the scholarship at the Māori Sports Awards, in Auckland, on December 2. At this event, 11 individual Māori world champions, 47 Māori across 8 world champion teams, 9 category winners, and 4 scholarship recipients were recognised for their achievements.

Erena found out she had won the scholarship while she was at badminton training.

"I was over the moon" Erena says. "Being in a minority sport, we have to pay for a lot of stuff out of our own pockets, so scholarships, such as this one, are critical to helping Māori youth support their dreams of being sporting stars."

Since 1999, Skills Active, in partnership with Te Tohu Taakaro o Aotearoa Charitable Trust, have provided the Māori Sports scholarship for promising and outstanding Māori athletes in support of their sporting and academic careers.

This year, the scholarship was open to all male or female athletes of Māori descent, aged from 16 to 20, who are achieving outstanding results at regional, national or international level.

Erena ticks all of these boxes, having represented New Zealand at badminton tournaments around the world. Stand-out events have included attending the World Junior Championships both in Peru and Spain, and winning the Australian Junior International competition in 2016.

Erena plans to go to Denmark in August next year to gain further international experience, to help her reach her goals of competing in the Olympics and Commonwealth Games.

"Next year and the year after that is all about gaining experience; Being a young athlete, it's a sport where you need quite a lot of experience. The sport is not as developed in Oceania, so going somewhere like Europe provides a really good opportunity to compete in more tournaments, and train with people at a higher level," Erena says.

The $5,000 scholarship will help Erena with the move to Denmark, and will also go towards her tournament fees and training costs.

Before Erena moves to Denmark, she will continue to live the busy life she balances in New Zealand. On top of badminton training, coaching, and competing, she works in childcare, and studies a Bachelor of Science at the University of Waikato.

Past recipients of the Māori Sports Scholarship have gone on to excel in a variety of sports. The 2011 recipient, Kayla Imrie, competed in kayaking at the 2016 Olympics. Others have represented New Zealand in sports from waka ama to rugby league.

Skills Active Chief Executive, Grant Davidson, says the organisation is proud to support young Māori, by removing financial barriers to allow them to excel academically and thrive in professional sport.

"Erena has achieved so much already, and I have no doubt she will go on to continue to inspire New Zealanders with her sporting success. It is an honour to support yet another deserving recipient of the Māori Sports Scholarship," Dr Davidson says.


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