Māori athletes a third of NZ Youth Olympic team

By Jessica Tyson

Over a third of the athletes set to represent New Zealand at the Youth Olympics are Māori.

23 Māori athletes will compete out of a total of 61, including wrestlers Westerly Ainsley, of Ngāi Te Rangi, and Arapo Kellner, of Ngā Puhi.

Kellner says he’s looking forward to competing against the international range of competitors at the games.

“I started wrestling when I was four years old, growing up in the US my older brother and all my friends were all wrestlers so that's how I got into it.  I love the physicality and intensity that comes with the sport, it's the ultimate challenge."

Beach volleyball players Tamara Otene (Ngāti Tūwharetoa) and Maya Dickson (Ngāi Tahu) are also part of the team following their win at the Oceania U19 Beach Volleyball Championships in Canberra held earlier this year.

Maya says, "I love that beach volleyball is a game of both physical and mental strength.  In order to win, you and your partner have to demonstrate both of these attributes to a very high level."

For BMX cyclist Jessie Smith, the Youth Olympics in Argentina next month will just be the latest destination, having already competed in places such as the USA, Australia, Colombia and Azerbaijan.

"I've been riding for 13 years.  In that time I've gotten eight national championship titles and five world titles.  BMX is pretty much my life at the moment," says the 17-year-old of Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāpuhi.

The competition starts next month in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Full list of Māori athletes heading to the Youth Olympics

Athletics           Kayla Goodwin           Ngā Puhi

Basketball        Joe Ahie                      Ngā Ruahine, Ngati Ruanui, Taranaki

Basketball        Max de Geest             Ngāti Porou

B Volleyball      Tamara Otene             Ngāti Tūwharetoa

B Volleyball      Maya Dickson             Ngāi Tahu

Boxing             Te Mania Shelford       Ngā Puhi

Cycling            Jessie Smith                  Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Whātua

Judo                Rihari Iki                       Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngā Puhi

Karate              Raukawa Jefferies       Ngāti Raukawa     

Rugby              Tynealle Fitzgerald       Te Whakatōhea     

Rugby              Iritana Hohaia             Ngāti Ruanui

Rugby              Azalleyah Maaka        Ngāti Porou

Rugby              Risaleaana Pouri-Lane Ngāti Apa,Rangitāne

Rugby              Montessa Tairakena    Tainui

Rugby              Kalyn Takitimu-Cook    Ngāti Porou

Rugby              Arorangi Tauranga      Ngāti Rora, Ngāti Huiao         

Rugby              Hinemoa Watene        Ngā Puhi, Rongowhakaata

Sailing              Pia Gordon                  Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Ruapani.

Swimming        Erika Fairweather         Ngāi Tahu

Weightlifting     Kanah Andrews-Nahu Ngāti Porou, Ngāpuihi

Wrestling          Westerly Ainsley           Ngāi Te Rangi

Wrestling          Arapo Kellner              Ngā Puhi