Young Olivia will give anything a go

ELLE HUNT
GENERAL REPORTER
Last updated 05:00 25/10/2012
Olivia Wickens, 10, meets Silver Ferns Irene van Dyk, left,  and Casey Williams
CHRIS SKELTON/Fairfax NZ

ON THE BALL: Olivia Wickens, 10, meets Silver Ferns Irene van Dyk, left, and Casey Williams at a training session ahead of their game against England.

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Olivia Wickens is albino, partly blind, and 10 years old, but none of that stopped her from keeping up with the Silver Ferns.

The year 6 Wadestown School pupil has albinism, a rare genetic disorder that hinders the body's development of melanin, which gives hair and skin its colour.

Melanin is crucial for the development of the retina, and as a result, Olivia's vision is limited to large objects. But despite her disability, she is a keen netballer, playing wing defence for the Wadestown Tornados.

She was invited to serve as ball girl for the Ferns' Quad Series game against England tonight, as part of Blind Week.

Olivia was overwhelmed with excitement yesterday. "Half the world is probably going to be watching," she said. "I'm going to make a big deal out of it."

Meeting Irene van Dyk and Casey Williams at training - and getting her ball signed by the full squad - was a dream come true.

"This morning I was up out of bed at 6.30am. We had a babysitter, and I said, 'Pinch me! Is this for real?', but he wouldn't.

"I can't help it, I'm so excited."

After training, van Dyk took Olivia into the changing rooms to watch the team's post-workout cool-down. "She even washed my drink bottle - she's such a good little helper," van Dyk said.

Mother Michelle Wickens said Olivia would give anything a go. "It's holding her back that's the hard part. The Paralympics, that's her goal."

The Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind is a charity partner of Netball New Zealand.

Spokeswoman Katie Miller said Olivia was inspirational. "She just goes to show that RNZFB members can achieve anything they want to."

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- The Dominion Post

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