Determined young sports star, 13, can do it all

TALIA SHADWELL
Last updated 12:00 05/02/2013
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ROBERT KITCHIN/FAIRFAX NZ
SPORTS STAR: Gorgi van Lienen has all-round sporting ability.

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As if winning at football and tennis weren't enough, cross-country running, cycling and swimming keep one sports-mad Palmerston North schoolgirl on track to realising a dream of becoming a sports star.

Palmerston North Girls' High year 9 pupil Gorgi van Lienen, 13, has more than 30 medals hanging up in her bedroom, commemorating achievements across a staggering number of sports.

Her most recent achievement is winning the ladies 3/9/3 race (300-metre swim, nine-kilometre bike and 3km run) at the New Zealand Contact Tri Series in Kinloch, Taupo, on Saturday.

The medal she is most proud of is the silver won in a national triathlon competition last year, putting her among the top two female triathletes in New Zealand in her age group.

But it is a career as a footballer that she dreams of.

The ardent Arsenal fan soaked up every football fixture at the London Olympics - not just for enjoyment, but for study.

In her midfield position, in which she hopes to one day play for New Zealand, fitness and tactical playmaking go hand in hand - and Gorgi learns from the best.

She says she "jumped up and down" with excitement when the All Whites beat Bahrain in 2010 in a World Cup qualifying match.

"The crowd was going crazy, it was so cool being there."

She hopes she too might one day get to play on the world stage - she will be 16 when the under-17 World Cup is set to be held in 2016, and she is working hard to get there - already playing for club and representative teams and currently being eyed for a New Zealand girls' football development squad.

She travelled to Japan last year for a football tournament and says she loves the camaraderie of playing in a team.

"I enjoy the team because I know lots of girls there and I enjoy that you can go away for games in Wellington and the Hawke's Bay and get to know those girls too."

Palmerston North Intermediate Normal School principal David Jopson sings Gorgi's praises. She always "gives 500 per cent", he says.

"She's a talented young lady who is going to go a long way. We have a lot of top sports girls at the school, she was right up there with the very best."

Leaving Palmerston North Intermediate Normal School last year, Gorgi won the school's top girls' sports honour, the Ken Rush sports award.

She recently returned from being a ball girl at the ASB Classic women's tennis open.

She has represented Manawatu in tennis, and won a bronze medal in doubles at a national schools tennis tournament where 6000 intermediate school children from around the country competed in a range of sports.

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Gorgi also came second in the North Island championships for team time trials with a cycling squad from Intermediate Normal and she won the school's swimming title last year.

She plays football, and tennis twice a week, and swims three times a week too, getting up at 5am to go to the West End pool to ensure she is fit for triathlons.

Asked whether her sporting activities wear her out, Gorgi looks a bit puzzled at the very concept of being tired. "She just gets up and goes and does it," cuts in her proud Dad John van Lienen. "She's the kind of kid who if you say doing somersaults on a trampoline is hard, she'll just keep going until she gets it."

She believes eating the right food, training hard and a desire to win is the package necessary for sporting success. "I think endurance is important and an attitude that they want to do it," she says.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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