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Team work makes the dream work for Rotorua Achilles members


Members of the Rotorua chapter of Achilles New Zealand will wear their yellow shirts proudly on Saturday 12th October when they participate in the Rotorua Ekiden round-the-lake relay.

Victory Events, who organise Rotorua Ekiden have sponsored a six-person Achilles Rotorua team to take part in the running division of the relay. A guide will join each of the six team members as they run their respective legs around Lake Rotorua.

With disabilities from autism to partial blindness, the effects of stroke and multiple health issues, the team are used to facing challenges, but have gained more confidence and determination as Achilles Rotorua athletes.

Achilles International is an organisation that brings able-bodied volunteers together with disabled athletes to train in an environment of support and community. The Rotorua chapter meet weekly on Wednesdays and fortnightly on Saturdays to train together, and the support of other members and volunteers help develop relationship skills and build self-esteem.

“Achilles Rotorua are a family who are here to support anyone with a disability, to participate in mainstream events,” describes coordinator, Faustinah Ndlovu. “Each athlete and guide bring something unique to the group and help one another identify new strengths, brighten each other up, and improve general well being.”

The local chapter are currently working toward sending five athletes to the Blackmores Sydney Marathon in September 2020 and are running various fundraisers to reach their $15,000 goal.

With a membership of over 30 people aged from 9 years old, the group is a diverse mix of people whose passions include painting, drawing and for one partially blind member, blind rugby soccer.

Thomas Jr Tuki (Tom), has been a member of Achilles Rotorua since 2015 and recently won the 2019 Achilles New Zealand Volunteer of the Year award.

“Tom is a person who always gives generously, taking new athletes under his wing and leading by example, Tom often puts his hand up when we need event volunteers,” said Ms Ndlovu.

Joining Tom on the Achilles Rotorua Ekiden team is Tauranga-based, Karleigh-Jayne Jones who is currently running for Tauranga Director of the Waikato University’s Students’ Union.

Karleigh is passionate about inclusion and advocacy and has been involved with Achilles Rotorua for two years. Karleigh’s guide for the Rotorua Ekiden relay is Ms Ndlovu and together they will be running the first leg of the course and changing over at the Ngongotaha Domain.

“I’m excited to do the relay again this year,” said Karleigh. “It’s a cool event and the best part for me is all of the awesome costumes!”

Tom and Karleigh are looking forward to sharing the Rotorua Ekiden glory with team members, Livoni, Colin, Jayden and Tara and their guides.

The Rotorua Ekiden team relay is in its 16th year and open to runners and walkers of any fitness level and ability. Beginning at the Novotel Rotorua Lakeside, the marathon-length course is split into six legs ranging from 3.24km to 9.27km. Prizes are given to the fastest teams, and organisers invite teams to ‘theme it out’ and wear their best costumes for the chance to become (un)Official Fancy Dress World Champions.

Team entries are open now, and spectators are welcome around the course and at the Rotorua Ekiden base at the Village Green from 8am on Saturday 12th October. For more information, visit the website: https://ekiden.co.nz

To find out how you can join Achilles Rotorua or become a volunteer or ambassador, visit: https://www.achillesnewzealand.org

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