Ironman star fondly remembers AIMS experience

New Zealand ironwoman star Danielle McKenzie is racing against the world's best this week in the three-test International Surf Rescue Challenge series in Australia. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media
New Zealand ironwoman star Danielle McKenzie is racing against the world’s best this week in the three-test International Surf Rescue Challenge series in Australia. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media

By Jamie Troughton

She’s taking on the best in the world but a small part of Danielle McKenzie wishes she was heading to the NZCT AIMS Games once again.

The 21-year-old McKenzie is an outstanding surf lifesaver and ironwoman, part of the New Zealand team who defended their title at last year’s world championships in France.
Today, she lined up in the first test of the International Surf Rescue Challenge on Maroochydore Beach in Queensland, against the best surf athletes from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Korea, the United States and Japan.

Some of her favorite memories in her memorable sporting career so far, however, came when she was representing Murray’s Bay at the AIMS Games in 2006 and 2007.

“The multisport was such a cool event – it was an awesome taster for my triathlon/multisport/surf lifesaving career,” McKenzie said. “I clearly remember the girls starting 2mins behind the boys and by the end of the kayak, I was beating all the boys. I hadn’t done a lot of my biking but really enjoyed the downhill at the end – it was really muddy and steep and the best way down was to go fast and not pull on the front brake!”

McKenzie won the Year 7 girls’ multisport title in 2006 and was second in the Year 8 girls’ in 2007, before combining with Nick King and Sam Blake to win the teams title. She was also named in the water polo tournament team in 2007 and, for good measure, played football in Year 7 too.

Danielle McKenzie at the 2007 AIMS Games with teammates Nick King and Sam Blake, after they had won the multisport teams challenge.
Danielle McKenzie at the 2007 AIMS Games with teammates Nick King and Sam Blake, after they had won the multisport teams challenge.

“The water polo was really important to our school and team and I remember the hype around winning, and the past Murray’s Bay Intermediate teams that had won. Our team was pretty tight and we had some awesome female players so it was pretty special to take out the title and continue the winning streak.”

McKenzie is one of a number of illustrious athletes who have passed through the AIMS Games – junior All White Alex Rufer was a star in Palmerston North Normal Intermediate’s title-winning AIMS Games squad in 2009, while world champion double sculls rower Zoe Stevenson played hockey for Tauranga Intermediate in 2004 and New Zealand women’s rugby sevens star Tyla Nathan-Wong was in the 2007 girls’ soccer tournament team, representing Blockhouse Bay.

McKenzie firmly believes the AIMS Games is the best sports tournament in New Zealand and relished the chance to compete for her school in a range of different sports.

“It’s cool to get to stay with the Year 8s and hear everyone’s achievements at the end of the day. The support and camaraderie of the school, your mates and other kids backing you during the finals is a really cool feeling and something special to be a part of.”

And her advice for athletes competing this year, when action gets underway on Sunday?
“Enjoy the moment and smash out an epic race or final.  Compete hard and fast and to the best of your ability, to be the best in New Zealand. It’s a great tournament to meet new people and build new friendships in sport that will last for a lifetime. To compete with like-minded people in your favorite sport and achieve your goals with your mates is special and the memories will last.”

Hers certainly have.

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Pamapuria shows what AIMS Games is all about

The Pamapuria six-a-side hockey team, who packed  up some amazing team spirit and brought it to this year's NZCT AIMS Games in Tauranga.  Photo courtesy of Cheryl Bamber.
The Pamapuria six-a-side hockey team, who packed up some amazing team spirit and brought it to this year’s NZCT AIMS Games in Tauranga. Photo courtesy of Cheryl Bamber.

If Hockey New Zealand ever needed proof their investment in the six-a-side version of the game was paying off, Kaitaia’s Pamapuria School eagerly provided it.

The abbreviated version of hockey was included in the recent NZCT AIMS Games for the first time, with 16 mixed teams from around New Zealand competing in the Intermediate-aged tournament, which attracted 7500 athletes from 17 sporting codes. Full 11-a-side hockey was played as well, attracting 20 boys and 24 girls teams.

Research has shown that six-a-side provides a much better learning and development experience for young hockey players, enabling them to move into the full 11-a-side better equipped, and Hockey New Zealand has already started aligning that in their programmes.

When Pamapuria, located 8km south of Kaitaia and established in 1879, began the eight-hour trip south to Tauranga for the tournament, there was a slight hitch – none of the 10-strong squad had ever played on turf before.

However, after fundraising to go on the week-long trip, they packed a couple of secret weapons – new Pamapuria principal Rikki Horlock is married to double Olympian and former Black Sticks star Lizzy Igasan, while the team itself was packed full of both enthusiasm and pluck.

“We have a small class of 18 Year 7 and 8 kids in a full primary school and we didn’t have enough to make both a netball team and rugby sevens team so the kids decided on hockey to allow as many of them to play as possible,” Pamapuria teacher Cheryl Bamber explained. “We also took indoor bowls players and three multisporters who doubled as hockey players as well – basically we were trying to provide this opportunity for my kids to participate in any way, shape or form.”

The lack of turf experience was solved en route, as were a couple of other pressing issues.

“All the gear came second-hand from Lizzy’s contacts and mates and we only managed to secure the goal-keepers kit in Auckland on the Saturday as we travelled down. We also called into North Harbour Hockey on the way down and used the sand turf for 30mins, which exhausted the kids. They weren’t used to full-size turf and couldn’t believe how fast the ball moved – hardly surprising as they had only played on the grass field and our netball courts!”

Also not surprisingly, given their limited build-up, Pamapuria struggled for results and lost a tight playoff to Otumoetai Intermediate in the battle of the wooden spoon.

Aquinas College won a thrilling final 2-1 over Bucklands Beach in the closing minutes, after Bucklands Beach had won their semifinal 4-3 on penalty strokes over Albany Junior High, who in turn lost 2-1 on penalty strokes to Fairfield in the playoff for third and fourth.

“There were some amazing matches in the six-a-side division over the week but more importantly, it allowed some of our smaller schools to participate in hockey for the first time,” tournament director Vicki Semple said. “In the past, getting a full squad of 14 players for the 11-a-side section proved too much for some of our smaller schools but this format meant we got to see the likes of Omokoroa No 1 School, Pongakawa and Pamapuria School take part. Pamapuria’s story really is incredible – they really added to the flavour of the tournament and this sort of thing is exactly why we started the NZCT AIMS Games concept 11 years ago.”

Pamapuria’s story seemed to appeal to the teams around them as well.

“They didn’t win any games all week but they accumulated a fan base as schools slowly started supporting them on the sideline, once coaches and managers told their players our story,” Bamber said. “This really gave them a big boost and they handled defeat fantastically. Their skill level most definitely improved and I cracked up on the way home when we drove past a turf and they wanted me to stop for a quick game!
“Did they love their week long experience? Absolutely! Would they go through it all again? You bet! They have spoken about remembering this trip for a very long time and every single one of them turned up for school on Monday and guess what they played in the break? Yep – you know it – hockey!”

Here’s what some of the Pamapuria six-a-side hockey team had to say:

“I think that we did really well because we tried a sport that we’ve never played before. We versed schools that virtually play all the time and yet we still gave them competition. Even though I had the ball smashed in my calf muscle, I still came back the next day to play because I wanted to go out with a bang.” – Heaven Murray.

“There were so many people there which was a little overwhelming and even though I was injured three times, I still wanted to come back for more because I was so determined to play. If we had more time to practice, we could’ve done a lot better.” – Sidney Simeon.

“As a school team, we were happily cheering on other teams and being supportive. The facilities were awesome and I loved every second of the whole experience. I competed in multisport in the morning and got back onto the turf for the afternoon because I love the game so much.” – Tayla Bamber.

“We would like to thank our coach Lizzy Horlock, our manager Cheryl Bamber as well as our supportive parents and all of our opponents for making this opportunity and experience possible.” – The whole team.

Dramatic delight as NZCT AIMS Games draws to a close

Loui Schuler (left) and Kiahi Horan celebrate their team's water polo win at the NZCT AIMS Games in Tauranga today.  Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Loui Schuler (left) and Kiahi Horan celebrate their team’s water polo win at the NZCT AIMS Games in Tauranga today. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services


September 12 2014
Jubilation etched across their faces, members of the Aquinas water polo team savored a little bit of history on the final day of the NZCT AIMS Games in Tauranga today.
The week-long tournament drew to a close amid tense competition across 17 different sporting codes, with 7500 intermediate-aged athletes trying to snare elusive gold.
None was as tense as the boys water polo final, where Tauranga’s Aquinas College and Auckland’s Kristin School were locked at 6-all at the end of regulation play.
Both teams converted their first four attempts before Aquinas goalie Jack McManaway got a touch on one shot and sent it deflecting off the post.  His teammate Connor Farrell stepped up and slammed the winning shot home; he was quickly inundated as the rest of the team dived in to celebrate.
“We were screaming and giving fist-pumps – we trained really hard for it and it was good for all that training to pay off,” Aquinas captain Kiahi Horan said. It was the first time the water polo trophy has ever left Auckland, with eight of the previous nine titles won by Murrays Bay and Glen Eden winning in 2011.
The Aquinas team also has decent pedigree – Horan’s father and coach is former New Zealand and Australian water polo representative Brendon Horan, while tournament MVP Loui Schuler – who collected more than 20 goals – is the son of former All Black Kevin.
“They had a really good goalie but we just aimed for the corners and it was something we’d practiced a lot,” Schuler explained.
Glen Eden also made history by winning the netball title for the first time, beating Murrays Bay 33-21 in a one-sided final.
With seven players in the Waitakere representative team, Glen Eden’s accuracy through the court in slippery conditions proved the difference.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Glen Eden captain Moanekah Va’ai said.  “We wanted that gold really bad and went for it in the last quarter.  We actually lost our first game of the tournament to Tauranga but we’ve climbed really well from there – it pushed us on to get the gold.”
Hastings Intermediate, managed by former Kiwis coach Kevin Tamati, overcame a determined Rotorua Intermediate team 12-6 in the rugby league final.  Earlier, Hastings had beaten Whangaparoa College 18-0 in the semifinal, while two late tries gave Rotorua a 24-18 win over Southern Cross.
Form team St Cuthberts scored twice in the last 2mins to inflate an otherwise tense win over Otumoetai in the girls hockey final, sealing a 4-1 victory thanks to some epic second-half defense amid an Otumoetai onslaught.
Tauranga Intermediate shook off a slow first half in the boys hockey final, scoring in the last moments of the first spell but then pouring five more past Northland’s Kamo Intermediate in a clinical display.  They eventually won 6-1, while Taradale – who lost in a penalty shootout to Tauranga in yesterday’s semifinal – also scored six goals in a 6-0 win over Pinehurst in the third/fourth playoff.
Rosmini College, featuring Dylan Boucher’s son Jayden, won the basketball battle of the North Shore, tipping over Northcross 36-29 in the final, while Takapuna NormalIntermediate were too strong for one of the tournament’s surprise packages, tiny Rotorua school Te Kura O Te Koutu, winning 53-26 in the girls final.
In a stunning double triumph, Auckland Normal Intermediate won both divisions football as the clouds opened on the final afternoon.
The team scored mid-way through the first half against North Shore rivals Northcross Intermediate, keeping the ball moving throughout the game and retaining most of the possession.  Northcross defended admirably under relentless second half pressure but Northcross claimed the title and kept an unbeaten tournament record in winning 1-0.
Their girls team, meanwhile, needed a second half clincher to give them a 2-1 win over Murrays Bay.
Tauranga Intermediate’s Hayley Riddell and Alana Laurie won the gold medal in the pairs at the indoor bowls in their second crack at the title, beating schoolmates Connor Christoffersen and Ben Tang in two close sets.
Josh Feng (Murrays Bay) added the badminton doubles title to the singles crown he won earlier in the week, pairing with Vincent Tao to beat Johnson Li and Anthony Shao (Bucklands Beach) 21-12 21-14, while Tamara Otene and Yvonne Wang made it a clean sweep for Murrays Bay, winning the doubles title to go with Otene’s singles win.
Tournament director Vicki Semple said there is every indication the event – which had nearly 3000 more competitors than the Commonwealth Games this year – will continue to grow.
“It’s been an incredible week with 1000 more athletes that last year but they’ve just been absorbed brilliantly into the tournament,” Semple said.  “We can only get bigger and we’re already getting feedback from schools who wished they’d been here this year but are definitely lining it up for next year.”
Get the latest results from the 2014 NZCT AIMS GAMES at www.nzaimsgames.co.nz or follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/NZCTAIMSGAMES
Photo by Jamie Troughton Dscribe Media Services info@dscribe.co.nz
Action from the final day of the NZCT AIMS Games in Tauranga. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Photo by Jamie Troughton Dscribe Media Services info@dscribe.co.nz
Action from the final day of the NZCT AIMS Games in Tauranga. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Photo by Jamie Troughton Dscribe Media Services info@dscribe.co.nz
Action from the final day of the NZCT AIMS Games in Tauranga. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Photo by Jamie Troughton Dscribe Media Services info@dscribe.co.nz
This is what the NZCT AIMS Games is all about – on the left is 1.91m Ezra Broughton-Sparks and on the right, at 1.5m, is his Napier Intermediate teammate Thomas Bigley. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Photo by Jamie Troughton Dscribe Media Services info@dscribe.co.nz
Action from the final day of the NZCT AIMS Games in Tauranga. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services

Gold flows for gun NZCT AIMS Games swimmer

Upper Hutt 13-year-old Chelsey Edwards dominated the NZCT AIMS Games swimming finals, collecting eight gold medals in Tauranga tonight.  Photos by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Upper Hutt 13-year-old Chelsey Edwards dominated the NZCT AIMS Games swimming finals, collecting eight gold medals in Tauranga tonight. Photos by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services

September 9 2014

Chelsey Edwards’ golden deluge has continued with a record-breaking swimming performance at the NZCT AIMS Games in Tauranga today.
The 13-year-old St Joseph’s Upper Hutt athlete collected eight gold medals in a hectic night of finals at the Baywave Aquatic Centre, setting three Year 8 records in the process.
It followed an identical haul at last week’s national age-group championships in Wellington, although she admitted this week’s effort took a bit more out of her.
“I only had one or two races each day last week, so I’m pretty tired after eight finals tonight,” Edwards said.  “I’m really happy though – it definitely makes it all worth it.”
Her records came in the freestyle events, lowering the 50m mark from 27.26secs to 27.02, the 100m from 59.85 to 59.32 and taking nearly 2secs off the previous 200m freestyle record of 2mins 11.66 in clocking 2.09.97.
Edwards, who trains with the Swimzone Club in Lower Hutt under coaches Frank Tyrell and Kelly Gilmer, also won the 50m and 100m butterfly, the 100m and 200m individual medley and the 50m backstroke.
Other prolific medal-winners in the pool included Glen Eden’s Ikko Shibuya, who grabbed six golds in the Year 8 boys, and Sungju Kim (Rosmini) and Marco Smeets (Sacred Heart) who each collected five gold medals in the Year 7 boys division.
It wasn’t just the big schools dominating either – the Year 8 boys breaststroke races were dominated by a cluster of super-quick rural kids, including Ngawari Pio (Pukemiro, North Waikato), Daniel Trevurza (Riwaka, Northland), Benjamin Stilborn (Piopio, King Country) and Liam Hosking (Pukekohe).
Another rural school to impress was the Hawera rugby sevens team, who topped their pool after some pre-match words from New Zealand women’s sevens player Gayle Broughton.
Broughton, 18, was involved in a national team camp in Tauranga ending today but as soon as it finished, she eagerly tracked down her old school team to lend them support, watching on as they thumped Matamata Intermediate 39-5 to continue their unbeaten streak at the tournament.
“Gayle is from Hawera and we’re pretty close with her,” Hawera team captain William Guthrie explained.  “We saw her at the hot pools last night with the team doing a recovery session so we were chatting and got a photo with them.  She told us before the game today that every game is a new game and we’ve got to keep playing hard and having fun – that gave us all a big lift and we knew she was watching so we tried that extra bit harder.”
Hawera toppled previously unbeaten Royal Oak Intermediate 24-14 in their first match of the day, then eased past Tauranga Intermediate’s Invitation side 29-5 in the afternoon.  Pukekohe, Tauranga and St Peters (Auckland) won the other pools, joining Glen Innes, Peachgrove, Royal Oak, Randwick, Northcross, Fairfield, Mount Maunganui and Bucklands Beach in the championship group.
New Zealand women’s sevens captain Sarah Goss was delighted to be involved with the tournament.
“This is my first time attending AIMS and it’s really amazing to see how many kids are involved in this,” Goss said. “To be involved in this at such a young age is something that should serve them well for the future.”
Also attending her first NZCT AIMS Games was Pinehurst School sports development manager Jenny Bindon, who retired as Football Ferns goalkeeper this year after 77 international matches, including two world cups and two Olympic Games in Beijing and London.
It proved a notable double for international ‘keepers, with former All White James Bannatyne helping look after the FIFA under-20 World Cup trophy, on display to promote the global tournament coming to New Zealand next May and June.
“This is just the second year Pinehurst has brought a team down to the AIMS Games and they’re just buzzing about it,” Bindon said. “I don’t know where else in the world you could go and play sport like this, where you’re not just competing in your individual code but travelling with a team. I guess in that respect it’s similar to the Commonwealth Games or Olympics – I’ve been to two Olympics and as far as the camaraderie and team support goes, this definitely compares well.”
A trio of Rotorua schools are dominating the girls basketball, with Te Kura O Te Koutu leading the way in Pool A, Rotorua Intermediate on fire in Pool C and Kaitao Middle School going well in Pool D.
Among the leading boys schools are Monrad Intermediate from Palmerston North, Northcross (Auckland), Cobham (Christchurch), Rosmini College, Tauranga Intermediate, Murrays Bay and Mount Maungnaui.
Bucklands Beach golfer Rose Zheng fired an impressive 75 at the Omanu Golf Club in the second round to hold a two-shot lead over Focus Jonglikit (St Peters), after the Cambridge golfer shot 77.
Jimmy Zheng (Bucklands Beach) added an 81 to his first-round 82 to lead the boys, three shots clear of Taupo’s Dylan Bagley, with Leo Ko (Fairfield) a further two shots adrift after a consecutive 84.
Papamoa College won a thrilling table tennis teams semifinal, with doubles pairing Dylan Bass and Xavier Lea sealing a 3-2 win over Pinehurst.  They’ll now play top seeds Somerville Intermediate in Friday’s final, after Somerville beat Otumoetai 5-0.
Photo by Jamie Troughton Dscribe Media Services info@dscribe.co.nz
Hawera Intermediate’s Mason Milhan evades his Matamata Intermediate opponent during today’s 39-5 win at the NZCT AIMS Games in Tauranga. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services

Past and future Silver Ferns at AIMS Games

Whangaroa College athletes (from left) Nakita Batters, Cheyenne Rush and Marika Seabourne pose with netball legend Irene van Dyk at the NZCT AIMS Games. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services.
Whangaroa College athletes (from left) Nakita Batters, Cheyenne Rush and Marika Seabourne pose with netball legend Irene van Dyk at the NZCT AIMS Games. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services.


September 8 2014
With her tall figure giving her a clear view, former Silver Ferns shooter Irene van Dyk could see the future of her sport etched bright and bold.
Like some sort of netballing Pied Piper, van Dyk was inundated with eager young athletes on the second day of competition at the NZCT AIMS Games in Tauranga, cheerfully agreeing to dozens of selfies and autograph requests and giving a handful of media interviews.
The 11th edition of the national intermediate-aged tournament has brought more than 7500 Year 7 and 8 athletes to Tauranga, with 96 netball teams included.  Van Dyk, in town as an AIMS Games ambassador, admitted she was blown away by the scale of the whole event.
“There are definitely some future Silver Ferns playing here and these kids have an incredible opportunity to experience an event like this,” she said. “The opening ceremony last night had the same sort of buzz as a Commonwealth Games and teams from the North Island get to take on teams from the South Island.  It’s an amazing concept and the rest of the world needs to see it.”
With the adjoining Blake Park football fields teeming and competition beginning under sunny skies in 11 other sporting codes, the tournament stepped up a notch after the first day’s cross country competition and opening ceremony.
The Rosmini College basketball team, coached by former Tall Black Dillon Boucher and featuring his son Jayden, showed what a threat they’ll be with the biggest win of the day, beating Otumoetai Intermediate 78-7, while at the other end of the scale, Palmerston North’s Monrad Intermediate edged Wanganui Intermediate in 28-27.
Manurewa’s Randwick Park School was one of seven unbeaten teams on the first day of rugby sevens action, joining Peachgrove, Tauranga, Hawera, Royal Oak, Glen Eden and St Peter’s College (Auckland).
Swimming heats began at Baywave Aquatic Centre, while the 19 waterpolo teams all had their first matches.
Bucklands Beach’s Rose Zheng struck a fierce blow in the gender wars, equalling the best opening round score in the golf with a nine-over 81 on the tough Omokoroa Golf Club course.  The 1.9-handicapper finished level with Focus Jonglikit (St Peter’s Cambridge) and Taupo’s Dylan Bagley, and one shot clear of her brother Jimmy.
Back at the netball courts, Auckland’s Sylvia Park School was also upsetting stereotypes, featuring three boys in a 12-strong squad.
Making the team even more special is the family ties – identical twin boys Henery and Nick Taulongo featured heavily in their 32-12 win over Te Kura o Te Teko, while twin girls Melelose and Sulieti Manu-Topeni are also in the team.
Brother and sister Samuel and Neelia Fanguna and sisters Pam and Taina Eli complete the family-centric feel of the team.
“They’re a really tight-knit bunch on the court and I guess that’s because they’ve all grown up knowing instinctively how each other plays,” Sylvia Park coach Amanda Key explained.
Former international footballers James Bannatyne and Sacha Haskell, meanwhile, were also present at the tournament with the FIFA under-20 World Cup trophy, which will be played for in New Zealand next May.