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Team will fulfil Tee's last wish

ANNA LOREN
Last updated 05:00 26/06/2014
Bodybuilding team
Anna Loren

HONOURING WISHES: Bodybuilding crew Team MVP will perform in Tonga this month to fulfil the dream of the late Tamina Hemehema. Clockwise from top left are: Mateao Vaihu, Manu Vatuvei, Vini Hemehema Mahoni, Jeff Mosa’ati-Foster, Poasi Niuafe, Gina Petrie and Richard Aholeilei. Petrie holds Hemehema’s ashes.

Tamina Hemehema
KEEN ATHLETE: Tamina Hemehema, was passionate about inspiring and motivating others to live a healthy lifestyle.
Funeral
Stellanova Photography
DEARLY MISSED: Hundreds of police officers line the streets at Hemehema’s funeral last month.

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Keen bodybuilder Tamina Hemehema longed to perform for the Tongan King. Her sudden death last month at the age of 31 put an end to that dream.

Now her friends are making the trip to Tonga in a bid to fulfil her last wish.

Four members of the bodybuilding crew Team MVP will fly out at the end of this month to perform at King Tupou VI's birthday celebrations.

Hemehema, who was affectionately known as "Tee", floated the idea a while ago but her training buddies "never took it that seriously", fellow bodybuilder Gina Petrie says.

"But Tee always wanted to go so now we have to do it. We miss her so very much and want to do anything to honour her wishes and memories."

Hemehema was a passionate sportswoman and founded Team MVP in 2012 with friends Poasi Niuafe and Mateo Vaihu.

The name "MVP" came from Niuafe and Vaihu's initials and the first letter of Hemehema's middle name, Vikatolia.

Over the past two years it has grown to a "core group" of about 10 members from South Auckland who play a variety of different sports.

Among them are Warriors star Manu Vatuvei and his boxer brother Lopini, also known as "Horse".

The group calls Club Physical Botany home but also trains at New York Fitness in Pahurehure.

Hemehema was a positive influence on all the members, Petrie says.

"Tee was the one who would text every single one of us every morning and say, ‘Get out of bed and go and do cardio'."

Hemehema's brother Vini Hemehema Mahoni says his sister's encouragement turned people's lives around.

"She said, ‘You think you're so tough, fighting in the gangs - go and fight in the ring'."

She was also passionate about helping people through her career with the New Zealand police.

She served as a constable for more than 10 years and was most recently stationed in Otahuhu as a youth education officer, where she worked with students at local schools.

Hundreds of police attended her funeral in Helensville.

The young athlete also left her mark at East Tamaki Tennis Club, which has named a trophy, the Tee Tennis Cup, after her. A tournament will be held for the cup every year.

Members of Team MVP describe Hemehema as a kind and loving person with a memorable laugh.

"It was an infectious personality. Everyone would just crack up laughing no matter what," Petrie says.

After her death her brother joined the crew and says he feels like he has filled the empty space she left.

And Petrie says that has helped her to deal with the loss of her friend.

"I personally feel as if she is still here now he is with our family."

Petrie, Vaihu and Richard Aholeilei will perform a bodybuilding routine in Tonga, and team president Niuafe will travel with them as support.

The crew has been approaching sponsors and holding prize draws to raise money and has also started a fundraising page on the website Givealittle.

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Any money raised above the $2000 goal will go towards a team campaign to help people dealing with a loved one's suicide.

Go to givealittle.co.nz/cause/MVPTeamTee to donate.

- Manukau Courier

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