Cow paddock field of dreams

23:00, Dec 03 2012
TOP-LEVEL HURLING: Field athlete Ashley Exeter, 17, has won several athletes with disabilities (AWD) awards this year.

Nestled among the cowpats in Woodville is Ashley Exeter's training ground.

The 17-year-old has transformed a paddock on her family farm into her own throwing ring and, despite the stray donation from Daisy the cow, it has everything she needs: A concrete circle, a raised wooden stop board and a spray-painted measurement guide on the grass.

The Tararua College student competes in shot put, discus and javelin and says having a training ground at home helps.

After first picking up a shot put at school athletics four years ago, Ashley started competing last year.

She has her own approach to throwing that makes her a standout, but says she does it "however it feels comfortable".

But, the tenacious teen does have to make some trade-offs to ensure she reaches the required distances.


Ashley has an artificial leg. She was born with telapese, or club foot, and without a fibula; so her leg was amputated below the knee when she was three.

As an AWD (athlete with disabilities) she is classified as a F44, meaning she has normal functions in her throwing arm, reduced function in her legs and slight balance problems.

She's a self-described "upper body thrower" and swaps her lack of mobility for explosive momentum.

She utilises her power, strength and speed to accomplish her record-breaking throws.

The humble teen struggles to describe her year of success, but a bookshelf in her bedroom laden with trophies, medals and certificates does it for her.

This year alone she has received her fair share of first placings at the Manawatu Secondary School Paralympics and at the North Island Secondary School Athletics.

She scooped silverware and broke several New Zealand records at both the New Zealand Paralympics and New Zealand Athletics Championships.

She was also awarded Parafed's best performing athlete in the southern North Island region, Parafed's best national athlete in field events and the Parafed Athletic Cup for outstanding achievement.

But, it doesn't stop there, as she has also been accepted into the Xccelerate 2 Xcellence programme, which is the Paralympics New Zealand talent search that identifies AWDs who display medal-winning potential.

And, to top it all off, she was named the inaugural Disabled Sportsperson of the Year at last month's Sport Manawatu awards, an honour, she says, that still stuns her.

"I was absolutely shocked, because I didn't expect to win it, but then I did, and I was blown away. It's pretty cool though."

Looking further ahead, Ashley wants to be selected for the 2016 Paralympics Games in Rio de Janeiro and draws inspiration from gold medallist Valerie Adams.

Adams' down-to-earth attitude resonates with Ashley,

"Nothing seems to phase her. She is just the best and I want to be like that. I'm determined to be good."

Her mum, Sandra, said despite dreaming of being a twinkle-toed ballerina when she was younger, Ashley's disability has never slowed her down.

"The only thing she ever asked me once was that she wanted to do ballet, and I had to say, ‘look I'm sorry Ash, but ballet is one thing you just can't do'.

"Even though she has a disability, we've never hidden that, and she's never hidden that either.

"We've never made out she's any different and now she's just getting out there and showing she's got what it takes.

"She's amazing, and I'm very proud of her."

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The Manawatu Standard