Halberg Games part of the journey to Paralympics

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

The Halberg Games, a two-day sports festival for the physically disabled aged eight to 21 held annually at Tāmaki Makaurau’s King’s College, is seen as a stepping stone for one young competitor.

With the support of his grandmother, 13-year-old Zane Kukutai-Seumanu hopes one day to compete at the Paralympics.

Halberg Foundation staff member and rugby legend Honey Hireme-Smiler says athletes from around the North Island come to King's College to participate in 20 sports in the two-day event.

“[There are] 150 athletes, mixed abilities, from wheelchair users, some with cerebral palsy to the visually impaired.

“It's all about giving them an opportunity to mix alongside their peers and just have fun,” Hireme-Smiler says.

Māori lawyer and disability advocate Tākuta Huhana Hickey (Ngāti Tāhinga, Whakatōhea) has been to the past few Halberg Games as her mokopuna, Zane, shows potential to become a Paralympian.

'They play, and they have fun'

“Just being here really it is a good experience for kids with disabilities,” Zane says.

“I played with some of the Paralympians through wheelchair rugby - or murder ball as we use to call it,” Hickey says. “There's nothing more fun than getting in that wheelchair and feeling like you're invincible for an hour on the field or for half an hour, and that's what these kids do, they forget they are disabled. They play, and they have fun.

“That's the whole point of these games. It’s getting people to explore, experiment, try something out and know that because you’re disabled doesn’t mean you can’t live a good life.”

For most grandparents and parents like Huhana, it's about seeing their mokopuna thrive.