Children paddle for 'staunch' mother
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A battle with cancer couldn't stop Tuhituhi Kihi-Simon from getting to Lake Karapiro for last year's waka ama nationals.
But she died in March 2013, and this year her club and children are paddling in her memory.
Mrs Kihi-Simon was a "staunch member" of the Ngaruawahia-based Turangawaewae Waka Sports - a paddler, a coach, manager, previous member of the executive committee, and part of the whanau.
Her legacy in the sport will continue as her four children wield paddles for Turangawaewae this week - Kahurangi, 16, Te Ranga, 14, Roimata, 9, and Teina, 7.
The National Waka Ama Sprint Championships are a time of mixed emotions for eldest daughter Kahurangi.
"It's quite hard to be here this week . . . my mum loved this sport. She just loved helping out with kids.
"She used to coach the midget girls as well. Last year we coached the midget girls together, and that was like our last time together.
"That's why it means heaps to be here," she said.
"When you think about the love she had for the sport, and everyone else is dedicating it [nationals] to her, you just stay strong to be here."
This year Kahurangi has continued to help with the midget girls - including her two younger sisters - under the guidance of her uncle Waki Simon.
She will also compete in singles and team events later in the week.
"It's not just a sport to me, it's more than a sport.
" I do waka ama because, I guess, the family, and the love I have for the sport, it's undescribable really."
And Kahurangi's passion is not unlike her mother's, Turangawaewae Waka Sports chairperson Rangimarie Morgan said.
"She's [Tuhituhi] left a huge gap, huge hole, and very big shoes to fill . . . Win or lose, we're just going to do our very best for her."
As well as coaching and helping out with the Turangawaewae club, Mrs Kihi-Simon also found time to establish and support one for her old home town, Tuakau Waka Ama Sports.
"She would go up against anybody if she thought the kids weren't a priority," Mrs Morgan said. "Nationals last year she was really, really sick but she was pretty staunch and still wanted to take her [midget girls] teams. She [Tuhituhi] was just a real staunch Turangawaewae Waka Sports mother, sister, aunty. She always took in everyone else's kids." firstname.lastname@example.org
- Waikato Times