Kingi getting ahead by going backwards

By James Perry

More than 2000 high school rowers are at Karāpiro this week for the Maadi Cup. Among them is Jadin Kingi from Sacred Heart in Auckland who is chasing gold on his home awa, Waikato.

Jadin Kingi has reached the finals in two events at this week's Maadi Cup national secondary schools rowing competition. And he might have a huge advantage up his sleeve, "Waikato is my river, my awa," he says. "So, I say a quick prayer before I race so I can get the mana." 

Kingi (Waikato, Te Rarawa) is only in his 3rd year of rowing. He says he took it up "just to try something different" as he was playing tough, rugby and basketball at the time. 

"[To] be honest, first time hopping on water was pretty scary," the 16 year old says. "But as soon as I hopped on the water I loved it. Fast, good high-intensity training. 

"I like hard work and just yeah, been going through with it for three years."

Tomorrow he lines up in the first of his two finals - U17 coxed fours and his other final are in the U18 boys Double Sculls.

One of his coaches, Teariki Dolan says Kingi is a naturally talented rower, "He's probably got the most powerful leg drive that we've ever seen throughout the whole squad for a number of years actually."

Kingi says his family is naturally talented when it comes to sports.

He spent the best of part of the first 10 years of his life living in Italy where his father Dion was playing rugby.

"It was very different, I had to speak Italian, which is pretty tough - English and Italian, learn two languages. Even Māori as well had to keep my culture going," he says.

Kingi and his family returned to Aotearoa around six years ago and he is still holding on to his culture at Sacred Heart.

He was part of the schools Kapa Haka team that stood at Polyfest last week, which meant some long days with rowing training and Polyfest training dominating the first term.

"I'm a border," he says, "I guess it gives me a good advantage so I just get to training and that."

"I go from Kapa Haka training to rowing the next morning then more Kapa Haka then school work. Can't forget that."

Having first played rugby as a five-year-old in Italy, where he says with feigned humility "I dominated", rugby is his great passion.

Kingi has been a part of Sacred Heart 1st XV since he was in Year 10 and now as a year 12 is into his third season.

While he might be seeing success on the field and on the water, he hasn't thought too much about which sport he might want to keep pursuing into the future.

"I have a real high chance of a good top squad so maybe rugby. But rowing's a real enjoyable sport for me so I'm just going to keep doing it until I finish school," he says.