September’s Anchor AIMS Games has breached two significant milestones, with more than 10,000 athletes from over 300 schools heading to Tauranga.
When registrations closed at midnight last night, 10,139 intermediate-aged competitors had entered, from 302 schools around New Zealand and the Pacific.
Entries have been received from Indonesia, Tonga, the Cook Island and Australia, while for the first time, 10 para-athletes will also compete in the week-long tournament, with five each in cross country and swimming. Last year, 9300 athletes from 271 schools took part in the 21 sporting codes but 72 new schools this year have helped push the numbers through the roof.
“We decided to consolidate this year and not add any more sports but we’ve seen significant growth in nearly all our code numbers,” tournament director Vicki Semple explained. “That tells us just how successful the 2016 tournament was – kids have gone away and told their friends and younger siblings just how much they loved it. It also suggests we’ve got the balance between competition and participation right – while we celebrate our champions, not all 10,000 athletes can win a medal, so the experiences are obviously transcending mere winning or losing.”
An economic impact study found last year’s tournament injected more than $3 million into the Western Bay of Plenty and expanded the region’s Gross Domestic Product by $1.98 million.
And former AIMS athletes continue to make their mark on the world stage, with a host of All Blacks, hockey stars, netballers, rowers and sailors having cut their teeth in Tauranga over the 14 years the event has been running.
Netball remains the largest code at the tournament, with a staggering 1464 players competing for 122 teams this year. That’s an extra 16 teams from last year, which was already New Zealand’s largest netball tournaments at any level.
Basketball has jumped from 75 teams to 97 in a year, with 1164 athletes set to take to the courts, while girls’ football has gone from 28 teams to 41. Semple was just as delighted with the smaller sports, however.
“Gymnastics has gone from 308 to 399 and I’ve been blown away by canoe slalom, which has pretty much doubled numbers from its debut last year, with 60 competitors entered from 17 different schools. We were lucky enough to have (Olympic silver medalist) Luuka Jones help out with the tournament last year and it just shows what an amazing impact momentum can have on a smaller sport.”
Squash and sailing have nearly broken through the 100-athlete barrier too, with squash boosted by the extra profile of Tauranga hosting next month’s world junior championships. BMX numbers have also increased after its debut in 2016, while there will be 306 indoor bowlers this year, sharply up from the 250 last year, and an extra 30 hockey players in the 6-a-side mixed division.
One of the innovations this year has been a “Road to the AIMS Games” series on social media, featuring schools the length and breadth of the country preparing, along with ACC SportSmart warm-ups delivered by the likes of All Black Nehe Milner-Skudder, netballer Leana de Bruin and para-swimmer Sophie Pascoe.
See the latest video here!
The 2017 AIMS Games will run from September 10-15 at a range of venues across the Western Bay of Plenty. The premier sporting event for 11, 12 and 13 year olds is a strategic partnership between Sport Bay of Plenty, Tauranga City Council and the four Bay of Plenty intermediate schools.