Top gear assistance for top young athletes

JONATHAN MCKEOWN
Last updated 14:16 14/01/2014
Smith’s Sports Shoes 2014 Junior Sports Scholarship
ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ

ON TOP: Smith’s Sports Shoes 2014 Junior Sports Scholarship winners, Amanda Fitisemanu, 15, left, Holly Mace, 14, PJ Stephens, 13, Samantha Trevurza, 15, and Rosie Taylor-Richmond, 15.

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Amanda Fitisemanu burns through her running shoes at an alarming rate.

The champion runner currently holds five age-group Tasman titles from the 80m hurdles through to the 1500m. In December she helped to defend a national title in the 100m relay and won silver in the national 400m final.

Fortunately, in 2014 Fitisemanu will have access to some of the very best equipment as she works towards cracking the open grades.

The Motueka High School student is a member of the newly created Team Nelson, a group of five junior athletes sponsored by local business Smith Sports Shoes. Along with the team uniform, each scholarship recipient receives $2000 worth of apparel and footwear.

Smiths Sports Shoes also hope to bring more local businesses on board with Team Nelson and Sports Therapy Nelson also involved, offering the five free physio care this year.

Fitisemanu, who is training for the Athletics New Zealand championships, said the scholarship has taken some of the pressure off the cost of competing.

"The equipment and shoes make quite a big difference," she said. "I used spikes, so spikes keep you up on the toe, they help me push through the ground and get faster.

"When you train in tough conditions you will also need a set of warm weather gear as well. It does get quite expensive to buy all the right gear, shoes and clothes along with the travel and stuff."

Fitisemanu was grateful that her parents have worked to provide her with all the gear she needs but said the being awarded the Team Nelson scholarship was a special moment for her and the other recipients.

"It was pretty cool, almost like winning a medal with everyone in the team there.

"Mum and dad are quite happy because it takes the pressure off them, they just have to worry about my travel now."

The 15-year-old, who is also a top netball player, said her biggest achievement in sport to date was the national titles at the secondary school champs, but she wanted to do well in the open programme this season.

"I'm training towards the New Zealand nationals. It's not by age, so I am aiming to get into the finals there in Wellington."

Smiths Sport Shoes manager Ryan Stewart knows what it takes to excel in sport. "Skippy" is one of Nelson's top footballers, playing for the Nelson Falcons and Nelson Suburbs' Mainland Premier League side. He said he was happy to assist the young athletes as they pursued their sporting dreams.

"The idea came from our Taupo store, " said Stewart. "Hopefully from here we can blossom it on and head the way of Taupo. They now have 32 kids and have set up their own fund for travel.

"This year we had 22 great applicants and if everything goes well we can get more companies involved and have more athletes receive help."

Along with Fitsemanu, there were four other scholarship recipients chosen for Team Nelson raging in sports from football to swimming.

Nelson-Marlborough swimmer of the year (Belsham Trophy) for 2012-2013, Motueka's Samantha Trevurza, won't require many pairs of shoes in the pool. But will be very happy to have some sportswear like sweatshirts to put on after an early-morning winter dip or gear for her other sports of netball, volleyball and touch.

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Trevurza is a New Zealand short-course bronze medallist and also took home four gold medals at the South Island champs excelling in her favoured backstroke discipline.

PJ Stephens, 13, is one of Nelson's most promising young footballers, picked out of the local federation talent centre training to attend a location day training in Timaru. On the day, he was one of a select few chosen to train at New Zealand Football's national talent centres.

The Nelson Suburbs' development team member and Nelson representative footballer is also a champion cross-country runner and an emerging talent in mountain biking and duathlon. He will have Skippy to advise him on the best boots to use this season.

Holly Mace, 14, has two pursuits she considers to be her main sports. She was a member of the Nelson Bays Volleyball All Stars team and won the Nelson junior 14-16 girls' Winter Tennis Open and is a Nelson rep in both codes.

The final recipient is Rosie Taylor-Richmond, 15, a Golden Bay High School student from Takaka. Taylor-Richmond is the Tasman Centre senior athletics champion for 2012-2013, when she was just 14. She won the high jump, long jump and triple jump as well as the 100 and 200m. She is also the South Island high jump champion.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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