Another title to Sunderland's name
Nyle Sunderland is used to having her name spelled wrong.
So when the inevitable typographical glitch appeared on her latest accolade, the 44-year-old Nelson world champion masters race walker took it in her stride.
Having won the quarter race walk at the recent Nelson Shoe Clinic half marathon, Sunderland was surprised at the prizegiving to also receive the New Zealand Masters Athlete of the Year award and her New Zealand Masters colours. According to advice from New Zealand Masters president Mike Weddell, colours signify that if a New Zealand masters team was being selected, the recipient would be on that team.
The name on the plaque might have incorrectly read "Sutherland", but it still didn't diminish her thrill at being recognised nationally for her stellar 2011 competitive season.
It was also the perfect parting gesture as she and husband Shane prepare for their new life on Australia's Gold Coast. They cross the Tasman on May 27, their decision based on lifestyle and improved work opportunities, although Sunderland insisted she would still compete internationally under the Kiwi banner.
"Once a Kiwi always a Kiwi and nothing feels better than wearing the silver fern," she said.
"For anything international, so long as you're still affiliated to New Zealand Masters, I can represent New Zealand anywhere.
"For all the regional and interclub stuff over in Australia, I'll race for Queensland Race Walkers, but for anything big I'll race for New Zealand."
She said their final destination came down to a toss up between Melbourne and the Gold Coast.
"It just came down to the weather and climate in the end. Melbourne winters are bone-numbing, freezing cold horrible."
The 2011 season certainly was a significant one for her, highlighted by her stellar efforts at the world masters track and field championships in Sacramento, California, where she won the 5000m, 10km and 20km races in the women's 40-years division, setting personal best times on each occasion. She also won gold at the Australian masters 20km racewalk championships in Melbourne.
"As I leave for Australia, this has just completed my most amazing year. I truly feel that 2011 was my best year to date and something I am very proud of," she said. "A lot of hard work, sweat and tears went into it. To have won three world titles, one Australian title, selection [in] and racing with a New Zealand open team, Tasman masters sportsperson of the year and [now] New Zealand masters athlete of the year, I think this award has capped off my year beautifully.
"It is an honour to have been recognised by New Zealand Masters and awarded this. It is as good as it gets. My sponsors stepped up last year and really got behind me. With their support and belief it helped me to train harder and really aim for goals that I had not thought possible. So a huge final thank you to Health 2000 Ltd, Sports Therapy and More FM and, of course, the biggest thank you to my husband and my [Melbourne-based] coach [Jim Leppik]."
Heading overseas is just one adjustment she'll need to make as she also prepares to step into the next, and highly-competitive, age bracket.
"That makes it a bit tougher for five years because the 45 to 50 age group is probably the most competitive of all of them."
And in case you were wondering, the plaque is being amended and will be posted to her in Australia.
- © Fairfax NZ News