World Waka Ama Champs at Lake Karapiro Welcomed
Parekura Horomia welcomes forth coming World Waka Ama Championships at Lake Karapiro
The Minister of Māori Affairs, Hon Parekura Horomia has thrown his support behind the upcoming competition between the world’s best waka ama, or outrigger, canoes.
The World Waka Ama Championships – officially called “Waka Ama IVF Va’a World Sprint Champs 2006” – is one of the world’s fastest growing sports, particularly in New Zealand.
The international competition, scheduled for 5 days between March 21 – 26, is the first to be hosted by New Zealand and the Minister is keen that the country “put its back to the hoe.”
“Māori have long excelled in this exciting sport. Canoeing is part of our tradition,” he said post last night’s launch of the event which was held at Lake Karapiro, the venue for the March competition and for the national’s currently taking place.
“In recent years this sport has attracted thousands of new competitors – from 1500 paddlers two years ago to more than 2000 at this year’s national championships. This is an extraordinary growth and is a great example of Māori realising their potential through sport”.
Waka ama is a fantastic sport,” said the Minister. “I have always admired the whanaungatanga spirit this sport brings out in our people. I look forward to seeing it alive and well at this world event.”
At the last
regatta held in Hawaii in 2004,1800 competitors paddling for
23 countries as far afield as Italy and Brazil took part in
the week long event. It was the largest world sprint
championships ever held.
“I was fortunate enough to be there when six New Zealand women struck gold in the World Outrigger Canoe Sprint Championships. The Kiwi Kaihoe six won the regatta's premiere event, the 500-metre sprint, against stiff competition from heavily favoured Hawaiian and Tahitian teams. Waka ama is very popular amongst Maori. This world title has taken the profile of the sport to another level", he said.
The Minister called on all New Zealanders to seize the opportunity offered by this international competition to showcase our skills, sports prowess, culture and natural beauty to the rest of the world.
The event is expected to attract up to 5000 international competitors from 26 countries including the Pacific island nations, the United States, Canada, Asia and Europe.