A Raglan West couple have triumphed over adversity – and inexperience – to make a big splash overseas in waka ama racing.
And they’ve three silver medals to show for it.
Christine and Wayne Trott, who suffered severe leg injuries in a motorbike accident close to 30 years ago, proudly showed off to the Chronicle last week the silverware they’ve just brought home from the IVF Va’a World Distance Championships in Tahiti.
Their success in the para or “adaptive” races is remarkable considering the short time both have been in the sport.
Wayne – who has a below-the-knee prosthetic – was coaxed by local paddler Aaron Kereopa into waka ama only a few years back while on a cycle ride along Marine Parade, a stone’s throw from home.
Christine was roped in to make up a women’s para team at national level in January this year despite hardly having paddled before.
“There aren’t many adaptive women (paddlers) in New Zealand,” she says of her inability to refuse when asked at the eleventh hour to make up a team at Lake Karapiro, where she happened to be on the sidelines rooting for Wayne.
Five paddlers couldn’t have raced without her participation, she explains of the team that went on to win gold.
Christine – who cannot bend one leg because she has no knee – got tips from Wayne only the night before, practising her paddling technique while sitting on a chair.
For the Worlds in Tahiti, however, where she was headed with Wayne as his No 1 supporter, Christine had eight weeks to prepare once it became clear that a woman competitor for the mixed para team had to pull out for medical reasons.
As well as training out on the water with Wayne’s open men’s team and with Raglan’s senior masters women’s team – who were aiming for the World Masters Games in Auckland in April – Christine had time to hone her skills at two intensive training camps.
Wayne attended all three training camps in Napier, Auckland and finally Tauranga where the 50 or so New Zealand athletes – or seven teams – prepared for international competition.
The couple’s hard work paid off with Wayne and Christine both winning silver medals in the mixed six-strong para team over a distance of 18km, while Wayne came away with another silver in his single outrigger race also over 18km.
It was the trip of a lifetime, say the youthful grandparents. Their time in Tahiti included an invitation to the Presidential palace for cocktails and canapes, and a cultural evening in which the New Zealand contingent performed two waiata and a haka.
Wayne reckons he’s addicted to the sport and would love to go back to Tahiti where it’s so popular. “Waka ama is to them what rugby is to New Zealand,” he says.
Even so New Zealand ranked second behind Tahiti in its medal haul, while Australia came a close third out of the 32 countries competing.
The couple are keen to continue training together. Wayne reckons he’d tried to talk Christine into paddling before, but this year’s lack of adaptive women competitors proved ultimately to be her motivation.
“Now we can put both our waka in the water and go adventuring in this beautiful harbour,” he says.
He reckons it’s the perfect sport for those with a disability because “we’re used to adversity and try harder”.
While Christine must paddle with one leg outstretched, she also has less paddle power because the large latissimus dormi muscle from the shoulder area was removed years ago to fill her knee cavity.
She admits paddling can be painful but says a change of medication and working with local physiotherapist Tessa Von Huben have been invaluable.
“We have got much support here (in Raglan),” Wayne adds. “And DK (Daniel Kereopa) is really good at tutoring.”