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Mangere teenager recognised for courageous attitude

Mangere teenager recognised for courageous attitude

After Tupou Neiufu was hit by a speeding car as a toddler her family was warned she may never regain mobility. Despite the odds Tupou (13) is now a record-holding swimmer and finding freedom and confidence in the water.

The Mangere teenager is a finalist in the Courage in Sport category in the 2014 Attitude Awards. The national awards celebrate the excellence and achievements of disabled Kiwis.

The traumatic brain injury that Tupou suffered resulted in left hemiplegia, or paralysis of her left side. This meant she had to learn to sit, walk and use her arms all over again. A determined girl, Tupou refused to let physical barriers get in the way of her growing passion for sport, so at the suggestion of her physio she decided to give swimming a go.

Since then, Tupou has been selected for the national development squad for para-swimmers, competing in freestyle and backstroke. She has qualified for five national championships and currently holds the New Zealand open and junior 100m backstroke record.

Tupou shows determination beyond her years, training up to seven days a week for two hours each day. Far from considering it a chore, she says she gets nothing but pure enjoyment from swimming. She says: “It feels like I’m free in the water, like I can do anything and be myself.”

Tupous’s confidence in the pool has transferred to other areas of her life. Once a shy, introverted girl as a result of the physical impacts of her injuries, she now wins public speaking competitions and has become a leader at her school, Sutton Park.

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The eldest of seven children, Tupou is also a role model to her younger siblings.

This year Tupou was identified as a potential future medal winner by Pathway to Podium programme, gaining greater support for achieving her dream of representing NZ at the Olympics and bringing home a medal by 2020.

Tupou’s nomination as an Attitude Awards finalist is testament of her fighting spirit. She will find out if she has won the award at a black-tie gala on World Disability Day, December 3 at Auckland’s Viaduct Events Centre.

There are eight categories in the 2014 Attitude Awards: Sport Performer of the Year, Courage in Sport, Artistic Achievement, Youth, Spirit of Attitude, the Attitude ACC Employer Award, Making a Difference award and the inaugural Attitude Junior Award. The overall winner of the Attitude ACC Supreme Award is selected from the category winners and a People’s Choice winner and a Hall of Fame inductee are also announced on the night.

Attitude Awards Trustee Dan Buckingham, a member of the elite national wheelchair rugby team the Wheel Blacks, says: “This is such an exciting time for everyone at Attitude Pictures because we find out who the finalists are. We have started travelling the country to film the finalists and even though this is the seventh year their stories continue to amaze us.”

Dan encourages everyone to visit, an innovative web platform created by Attitude Pictures, in early November to see the short films of the finalists and to vote for the person most deserving of the coveted ‘People’s Choice Award.’

The Courage in Sport award is sponsored by Westpac. Other sponsors supporting the awards include: Invacare, Barfoot and Thompson, IHC Foundation, Drake Medox, Ministry of Health, Air New Zealand and Wayne Francis Charitable Trust.

Chief Executive of ACC Scott Pickering says ACC is proud to be principal sponsor of the awards for the seventh year, including sponsorship of the Attitude ACC Employer Award and the Attitude ACC Supreme Award.

"I'm really looking forward to this year's Attitude Awards, which are a significant event on New Zealand's calendar. Through celebrating excellence in the disability community and the important contributions made by New Zealanders with disabilities, the awards have the power to shift perceptions and to enhance lives."

For tickets to the Attitude Awards gala evening on Dec 3 contact Sue Wales-Earl at or phone 09 377 6280.

For all the latest on the Awards and the Attitude Programme:

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