Alma kept promise to dying granddad

BEN STRANG
Last updated 12:26 06/08/2012
Wallace
World champ: Alma Wallace of Otaki is the new ladies’ underhand world champion, after winning her event at the Lumberjack World Championships in Hayward, Wisconsin.

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Te Horo man Jim Winiata's dying wish was for his granddaughter to travel to the United States and win the Lumberjack World Championships in ladies' underhand.

Just days after his death, she did.

After reluctantly accepting her grandfather's wish, Otaki's Alma Wallace won the ladies' underhand competition at the world champs in Hayward, Wisconsin.

"I wasn't going to go. I said, 'Nup, I'm staying to look after you', but he was pretty adamant that I had to go," Wallace said.

"So I said I'd go. He ended up dying a week before I went to America. His funeral was on the Tuesday, and I left on the Sunday."

Once at the three-day event, Wallace was the unknown quantity in the field and was ranked 28th by tournament organisers.

She was billeted out to 2011 world champion Nancy Zalewski's home, and travelled to the event with her burly American host.

On the first day, Wallace set the fastest underhand time in an early morning match, with no crowds watching.

She was quickly introduced into the main event, competing with the world's best choppers in front of about 14,000 fans and television cameras.

"Throughout the event no-one wanted to know me. I could walk around and get my food after competing without a problem."

But then came the final. With US legend Zalewski looking to retain her world title, the New Zealander blitzed the field to finish in 31.4 seconds.

She held her axe to the sky and yelled: "This is for my pop, Jim Winiata''.

The crowd went wild.

"It was such a release of emotion. I'd held it in the whole time. They just went bananas.

"Nancy is the local girl and is a legend but the crowd went crazy for me. . . . Then after I won I went to get some food again and got swamped by everybody. TV crews were wanting to interview me. It was quite funny really."

Of course, she knew the whole time that she had a good chance at victory, having toured some US events last year and beating Zalewski then.

"I knew I could win it. I'm just gutted I couldn't enter more events and go for the overall title."

Wallace is planning to defend her underhand title next year.

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