Category Archives: Sport

Nick packing for a climb

Mountain to Climb

Nick Allen is a man with conquest on his mind – first the Himalayas, then the seven summits. But far more important is conquering himself, and the multiple sclerosis that would try to keep him grounded.

It’s been nine years since fatigue, muscle cramps, balance and bladder problems and restricted mobility started occurring, and five years since Nick Allan was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). Nick had childhood dreams of climbing Mt Everest, so with his symptoms under some sort of control, what better place to start than tackling the Himalayas?

Always smilingNick will soon start the two 6,100-metre climbs, Stok Kangri in India and Island Peak in Nepal, mixing mountain climbing and trekking. The climb will raise awareness of and also fundraise for people living with MS. It will even go ahead with or without his doctor’s approval – “perhaps I should have it, but it was sort of a case of well, it’s do this, or die. Not doing it was not an option”.

As if the Himalayas weren’t enough, “if it goes well and I can manage the altitude okay, I would like to do the seven summits.” The seven summits are the tallest peaks on each continent, including Mt Everest. Nick hopes to be the first New Zealander with MS to conquer the seven summits. Nepal is just the trial run for bigger things to come.

Everything in me didn’t want to step into that wheelchair because I sort of knew that that was like surrendering my legs

“I am grateful for MS, I wouldn’t change it – well sometimes I would, but more often than not I wouldn’t. I think that when you’re fit and healthy and focused you don’t stop to enjoy and appreciate things.” Having been in a wheelchair and unable to do what the majority of us can, he admits there was a lot he took for granted.

At 19 Nick started experiencing symptoms of MS, especially with his bladder and legs. “I was too embarrassed to say anything about the bladder problems! But with my legs I just thought I was unfit so I started training harder.” Having a shower became a herculean task, leaving him wiped out.

MedsIt wasn’t until Nick was 25 that he was finally diagnosed. “In some ways it was a bit of a relief, because there had been all of this stuff that was going wrong, so finally there was a reasonable answer. Then it hits you, that this is it. In that first year I was in denial of the fact I had MS, I wasn’t adopting any solutions.

“But then I was like, hang on a second, I’m going to end up in a wheelchair and I’m never going to get out of it. And at 25 I was like, man, do I really want to spend the rest of my life like this?”

While over in the United States Nick’s worst fear came true; he did end up in a wheelchair and lost his vision. “When I moved there stuff started getting really bad, I was struggling. I started to have those thoughts of, ‘What’s even the point of continuing to live?’

“Mum dropped everything, booked a ticket to come pick me up then flew me home.” With Nick in a wheelchair the family relocated to Palmerston North. To get out of the wheelchair his Dad had to massage Nick’s legs every night because he was in so much pain. “Everything in me didn’t want to step into that wheelchair because I sort of knew that that was like surrendering my legs. It was the very opposite of how I wanted to be perceived.” It didn’t take him long to trade the wheelchair in for a camera – how else could he capture the view from the top?

If it goes well and I can manage the altitude okay, I would like to do the seven summits

He was able to get his symptoms under control with a drastic change in food and exercise. He credits his new lifestyle to the Jelinek diet, designed by a man who has MS himself. The diet includes very little fat, no sugars and no dairy. Initially Nick wasn’t so set on the idea of having to give up his sweet tooth. “Now if I have sugar it’ll just kill me, I’ll get headaches.”

Along with his diet and fitness, Nick has painkillers to manage tingling, a common symptom of MS. He says it is “as if you were being shock-blasted constantly. I felt like I was going to rip my skin off my face”. To control the spasticity and muscle cramps he has to stretch every morning, midday, afternoon, evening and night. As for fatigue, he chooses to not be decimated by the symptoms of MS; instead he has slowly built up stamina by exercising within his body’s limits. “Without being all airy-fairy, I’m sort of more in touch with myself and can sense my body’s limits.”

If they fit, pack themAfter being diagnosed Nick didn’t go tramping with anybody for fear that he would slow them down and become a liability. So a huge milestone for him was last year when he and a friend completed the Ball Pass on the side of Mt Cook. “What was crazy was Dad had said to me don’t overdo it, and I was like I’m going to do it come hell or high water and I got to the top and was smashed. I sat there for about an hour recovering.”

With a glow in his eye, Nick describes the unbelievable feeling he experiences when reaching the top of a climb. That moment alone explains why all the struggles, defeats, training and pain have been worth it. “My absolute favourite thing is when you reach the top and there are all these clouds beneath you and this real sense of just being on top of everything. Then in the distance you can see peaks that you wouldn’t normally be able to see and it’s just the sense of ‘I’m on top of all of this, but also look at everything there is out there’.”

www.masteringmountains.org

Snippets-1

Snippets from Issue 6

GETTING DOWN AND DIRTY

MTB K LoopIn the past decade Arapuke Forest Park has been swamped with the sweat of bikers chipping away dirt for the park’s trail development.

The Manawatu Mountain Bike Club has been working with the Palmerston North City Council to develop a network of mountain bike trails called the K-Loop at the Kahuterawa Outdoor Recreational Area. “Our goal is to create some reasonable off-road riding opportunities around Manawatu, where there has traditionally been only a few,” says club representative Bill Russell.

Today the park has fifteen kilometres of bike tracks catering to all experience levels. Beginners get to enjoy a relaxed ride while advanced mountain bikers can pursue the downhill runs with thrilling jumps and drops. “On a good ride I should feel scared somewhere along the journey,” says club member Russell Brebner.

The tracks have been made possible because of the persistence and hard work of club members. “Lots of man and woman labour is required to turn the trails into something that’s fun and ride-able,” says Russell. The club organises occasional working bees to really crack into the project, and receives support from the Palmerston North City Council, Trail Fund NZ, Horizons Regional Council, Ground Effect and the Eastern and Central Community Trust.

Owing to forest harvesting, access to the park has been limited recently to weekends and trail development has been delayed. “The great news is that the loggers should be out of there by the end of April,” says Bill. “Next season onwards is going to be really exciting because we’re going to have a much bigger playground to do the design.” It’s anticipated that when the trail building is complete twenty-five kilometres of trails will be available to enthusiasts.

Arapuke Forest Park isn’t just full of the daredevils you’d imagine. “We’re building something that caters to everyone from six-year-olds to the advanced riders at the other end of the spectrum,” Russell explains. “In the past three years I’ve seen people I never thought I’d see riding on that hill, from families to groups of ladies.”

Park access is through Kahuterawa Road (advanced trails) or Scotts Road.

FREE TO ALL BOOK LOVERS

Little LibraryThere has been a new feature added to the Rose Garden at Palmerston North’s Victoria Esplanade. In memory of book lover Joyce Scott, her friends and family have erected a Little Free Library. Joyce, who passed away last year, wanted everyone to know the joy that comes from getting lost in a good book.

The Little Free Library is a box full of books where everyone is welcome to pick up a book and bring back another. This library is currently one of only four in New Zealand and is a part of a global initiative, with libraries around the world all registered and tracked at www.littlefreelibrary.org

Alida Parker, a friend of Joyce, recalls how often they would talk of setting up a Little Free Library near Joyce’s home. The Esplanade became home to the Little Free Library as it was a special place for Joyce. “She loved to be surrounded by the roses and sometimes we would both take a book down and enjoy the place and the sun.”

The City Council installed the Little Free Library in the Rose Garden, and the family have plans to install another on Massey University campus. “We are extending the Little Free Library to other parts of New Zealand, that’s the beauty of it.”

CRACKERS ABOUT CHEESE

Cheeeeeeese!!!In the hustle and bustle of the Feilding Farmers’ Market, award-winning cheese-maker Adrian Walcroft can be found at the Cartwheel Creamery stall.

Adrian has an impressive resume, having been awarded the title of Champion Home Crafted Cheese-maker at the 2012 New Zealand Cuisine Champions of Cheese awards. His Pohangina Blue cheese was also a winner, earning gold at the event. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen him as animated as he was with the success of those awards,” Adrian’s wife Jill explains. “They’re very justly deserved.”

The couple started producing their artisan goods for market in September last year. To pick their favourite cheese is like “choosing a favourite child!”. A popular choice is the aptly named Coppermine, a washed-rind cheese with coppery tones, named after the creek running through the Ruahines. “It’s really tasty and we’re enjoying people discovering it and liking it as much as we do.”

The Walcrofts are excited about making their gold-winning blue cheese for customers once a culturing room is available. “It might be our new favourite!” Plum and quince pastes derived from their Pohangina Valley orchard are also soon to accompany their goods at the market, enriching the cheese tasting experience.

Tastings at the gate on Sundays 1-4pm. www.creamery.co.nz

Kelly Evens

Behind the Medals

She’s the manager behind the medalists, five of the international competing athletes whom we are proud to call our own. Representing sporting superstars Sarah Goss, Kayla Whitelock, Simon van Velthooven, Sarah Cowley, Emily Collins, George Whitelock and Aaron Gate, Kelly Evans, creator of The Athlete Project Agency, is playing to win.

Medals 1Kelly accompanied four of her athletes as they competed at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. Her team brought home a collection of silver and bronze medals and top ten placings. Experiencing the games in person, with hundreds of thousands of other spectators, was a “completely unimaginable” experience.

“It was the first Games I’d been to, and compared with watching it on TV it just does not match the excitement and the nerves. I sat with the family of each athlete when they competed. You’ve got nerves for them, because there’s been all this training and building up to these moments, and it comes down to sixty seconds, or an hour’s game,” says Kelly.

The people of Scotland were a standout and ensured that the Games were about more than just the competition itself. “Glasgow put on a magnificent show, everyone comments on that as you arrive. They are just so friendly and lovely and the whole country really got in behind the event. Sitting in the different stadiums and venues there would be Scottish families with their kids there and you could really feel the home crowd, but when their people weren’t racing they would cheer on your country next to you. There was just such a great atmosphere.”

It comes down to the people – it’s rewarding

For Kelly, sport has been a lifelong passion, and the work she does she considers the job of a lifetime. Nurtured from a young age, “I’d grown up in a sporting family, it’s always been around me,” she explains. Armed with a sport and exercise degree from Massey University and more than a decade’s experience in the sport management industry, creating The Athlete Project Agency in 2012 was a natural career choice.

Commonwealth Games Glasgow“I’ve always wanted to work in this capacity. I enjoy being behind the scenes and supporting them. I started contemplating going out on my own and starting the business, and ironically it was through the promotion of the BCC’s Innovate programme and seeing the other businesses go through that that made me take a risk and start it.”

While the business has taken off to a roaring success, the work does come with its own challenges. “With the way I run the service for my clients it really is 24/7. You can have athletes in New Zealand, in Norway, in Japan and everyone is in different time zones. If it is an important time for athletes, your timing has to change.”

It was the first Games I’d been to, and compared with watching it on TV it just does not match the excitement and the nerves

Even with the fantastic Glasgow results, Kelly is already encouraging her troupe to focus on the future, with the 2016 Rio Olympics at the forefront of every athlete’s mind. “This year is a really important year for them; they need to get good results in order to be selected to go to Rio next year. A lot of people think Rio is the big pinnacle year, but in 2015 they have a lot of work to do to ensure their position is cemented.”

Medals 2While her athletes are at the peak of their careers currently, Kelly is also there to ensure that their future is positive once they have moved on from competing. “Life after sport is a big one. In the last five to ten years their life as an elite athlete is finite. We work with them, even when they are emerging at sixteen and seventeen, to get them to focus on a life after sport.”

Even though it is a life of managing high stakes, intense pressure and time zone jumping, Kelly wouldn’t have it any other way. “We joke and call it the AP family actually; we all support one another. It comes down to the people –
it’s rewarding.”

Ross hard at work

An Eye for Detail

To those who know it, the name Ross Hyde instantly brings to mind the word ‘jeweller’. Ross is indeed a second-generation jeweller, but less well known is his formidable talent as a photographer, a passion that has seen him explore some of the most unique and remote places of the world.

Hyde Jewellers cemented its spot on The Square in Palmerston North back in 1964, when Ross’s father first established what would become an iconic jewellery store. Ross soon became his apprentice, primarily because he thought he “had to do it”.

Rally Action“I left school and didn’t know what I was going to do. I have a strong disciplinary family so it was either this choice or no choice. So instead I went overseas for two years with a friend.”

In those two years Ross bounced around a few places and learned a lot about who he was and what he wanted to do in life. A job as a brick layer in Brisbane demonstrated to him that he “really didn’t have any idea”. His journey took him overseas to Europe, where he travelled with a caravan, but was unfortunately cut short when he received a phone call from his dad back in New Zealand. “My father rang up saying he wanted to retire, so I came back.”

It was like handing over a baby never to be seen again

“In spite of my father’s determination for me to be a watch maker, which wasn’t necessarily the best choice for me, he had a lot of other things he did for me. One of those was travel and amateur photography… He took us on some pretty good holidays. When I was 16 he took us to Alice Springs and he gave me one of his old cameras. That’s really when it started.”

In addition to his passion for photography, Ross has had a love of motorsport for most of his life. When he bought his first camera he combined the two to create some truly stunning photography, and others thought so too. “It was a matter of getting a camera and going out. Manfeild hadn’t long been established, so I was going and taking pictures. I started sending pictures off and getting them published, got a little bit of commercial work. You never made any money off it but you did it for fun, and the fact that you got pictures published was in itself, for me, quite a big part. It still is.”

Night photoAs time passed, Ross worked for a motorsport magazine and did some public relations writing for Suzuki, but photographing motorsport events was where his heart lay. “If you are doing a rally there’s a whole lot of preparation you have to do beforehand, pretty much driving the whole route, finding locations and making a plan of how you’re going to do it. The basic brief is to capture the essence of a rally – the action, the speed, the servicing, the personnel, and also the essence of the country where it’s run.”

In spite of my father’s determination for me to be a watch maker, which wasn’t necessarily the best choice for me

“It’s almost an anti-climax when the rally starts because you’ve sometimes done three or four days’ work. When we used to go to Kenya we’d do almost a week and a half’s work, then a four-day rally. You have to get the shot, you’ve done all this work and there is no excuse not to get it.”

In the first few years Ross struggled and would feel a sense of loss when a rally or race ended. “The film would go straight back to Japan and I wouldn’t see what I’d done until some months later, either when I was going through Japan and saw the edit of my work or in a magazine. It was like handing over a baby never to be seen again.”

Shipwreck, AustraliaThe entrance of digital photography onto the scene has made this far more manageable, and it’s something that Ross feels very positively about. “So much stuff has changed since then, from wanting something as soon as the next day to wanting it within the next half an hour. It’s made taking a photo so much more accessible to people, and it also teaches people to use a camera quicker because the feedback is almost immediate.”

“It has had a lot of detrimental effects as well though, pushing down prices of jobs and things like that. I think the digital realm has opened up a lot of opportunities but has also removed of a lot of possibilities, a lot of opportunities are gone or have been diluted by it. Once you have your digital image you also move into the realm of Photoshop, which is either a huge, big, fantastic opportunity or a can of worms.”

PortraitWhen he looks back on his experiences, Ross’s favourite motorsport event is one that is held in Monte Carlo. “It is the most ridiculous place to host a motorsport event, but you can get so wound up with the emotion of the place because the cars can pass so close to you, at 170 miles per hour. It is very exciting when you capture that excitement.”

Nowadays Ross has found a new avenue of interest in landscape photography, which he “gets a huge amount of enjoyment out of”. Some of his favourite photographed locations are Colorado Plateau in America, The Wave in Arizona and the Wahweap Hoodoos in Utah. “You have to do a bit of homework and hiking to get there, but I like finding little interesting locations.”

Whatever he is shooting though, Ross says that photography has to be about “trying to capture the moment of what you’re experiencing”.

Freya Thompson

Small Powerhouse with a Big Attitude

Size really doesn’t matter when it comes to the determined Freya Thomson. You can find her in the early hours of the morning at the gym training her clients and in the late hours of the evening being trained herself in the kickboxing variant of Muay Thai.

“I was the sporty girl at school. I loved going to the gym, and was very passionate about eating healthily and having a healthy lifestyle. I was the girl who would try to get the overweight girls to go out for a walk and not drink Coke. So I was that girl, the annoying one,” Freya Thomson laughs.

Fighting fitEver since she can remember, Freya has been doing some form of sport. “When I was ten I decided to go vegetarian then, later on, vegan and I just noticed how much that changed and helped me. I became a better athlete and it meant I persevered with sport, rather than it just being a thing you did after school.”

New Zealand’s culture surrounding health, exercise and lifestyle is “pretty slack” in Freya’s eyes, with her message being for people to get off the couch and start moving. “It doesn’t have to be high-intensity, scary stuff, it is just about moving, changing one unhealthy lifestyle choice. Swapping juice for water or a herbal tea is enough. It doesn’t need to be this dramatic drop that you are never going to maintain.”

“You go to the supermarket and see the obese, really unhealthy looking people and look at their trolleys and it’s chips, white bread, pasta, fizzy drink and juice. You can just see the difference.”

The day I wake up and not want to go to the gym is the day that I need to find a new job

“It’s the Kiwi culture of ‘it’ll be right’ or ‘that’s too hard I just won’t bother’ that has created this thing where the gym is only for fit people. So it’s really hard for people who have never been before to come into the gym and acknowledge that they need help. If it’s not one week it’s two weeks, then a month, then six months and all of a sudden you are overweight with heart disease.”

Helping clients to reach their goals, or make significant lifestyle changes, is the most rewarding part of her job as a personal trainer at Massey Rec Centre. “It’s when clients come in and are so stoked about their lifestyle changes, especially ones with quite severe medical conditions. When they come in and say, ‘My doctor said I can drop this medication’, those cases are highlights. It’s cool to know that I have made that kind of change to someone’s life.”

Time offImproving a client’s lifestyle one bad habit at a time is all in a day’s work, but for Freya it doesn’t stop there. She’s also passionate about training in Muay Thai, a combat sport that uses stand-up striking and includes various hits and blocking techniques that aim to injure or incapacitate, which she converted to in 2009.

“I changed to Muay Thai from Taekwondo because I only wanted to spar, and I joined a local Muay Thai gym around the corner just to get in some sparring practice. I then really wanted a Muay Thai fight, but my trainer at the time wouldn’t let me until I quit Taekwondo. It seemed like the right time and after the first fight I was hooked.”

Freya’s first title fight was back in 2012, when she went in as the underdog and came out a national champion. “When the authorities match you up for fights they don’t ask you about other styles, so I was fighting other people who had only had one or two fights and I was doing really well against them because I had ring experience from Taekwondo. I very quickly got to the point where I was fighting more experienced girls and there was just no one else around my weight for me to fight, so the only way was to challenge for a title.”

Her recent trip to the Muay Thai World Championships in Malaysia in May is something that Freya says was a great experience. “They have a rule over there that there is no blood, which is very different from New Zealand. In my first fight the girl got a good hit in, I got a bleeding nose and it was all over. But the team got some really good results.”

It’s when clients come in and are so stoked about their lifestyle changes

Sport is a mental game, according to Freya. Going into her last fight after three losses in a row would have been enough to mentally drain the best of them. “You get the physical injuries but it is nothing like having to get your head mentally there to be able to train and still be able to fight. I made the decision that if I lost this fight then that was it, so as the ref held my hand up that was a good moment.”

“You have to have mental strength. You can teach someone how to hit but you can’t teach the heart or the passion, it has to be within the person. It is pretty scary stepping into a ring where you know someone is trying to knock you out. But that’s why I quite like it, because it’s making me go outside my comfort zone. Once that final whistle has gone there is such a huge amount of respect for each other. Amongst fighters, we are like a little family.”

World Champ in actionThere are times when work does get the better of Freya, but she takes it all in her stride. “I’m lucky that I love my job. I have a cool client base whom I get along with really well. There are days when I find it hard to go to training, and when I’m coming up to a fight clients do find that I push them a lot harder. I love both jobs and I wouldn’t be able to choose one over the other.”

In her spare time Freya relishes working with the horses she trains and spending time with her much-loved dogs. “Again I’m one of those really annoying people who exercises in their spare time. But when I have the spare time that’s when I can take my dogs for a longer walk or go to a park. It’s mostly about mentally relaxing and winding down. I love going to get a facial and a massage on the weekend, so as much as I like getting dirty with the horses and punching people in the face, sometimes I like to do girly stuff too.”

In terms of the future, Freya is a “go with the flow kind of person”, and is happy with life as it is. “But the day I wake up and not want to go to the gym is the day that I need to find a new job. Until then I love my job. I live a good life, why would I change what I’m doing?”

Andy Kruy

Chasing The Games

Sportsman Andy Kruy is currently the third-fastest man in the country, and at just 22 years old. His achievements in athletics include medals in the 100 metres and long jump at New Zealand championship level. With no signs of slowing down (literally), he looks forward to some day becoming the fastest man in New Zealand.

Andy found his passion for sports at a young age, when his early school days were filled with playing lunchtime games with friends. It was the influence of these friends that had Andy wanting to play Saturday morning rugby for a local club. “It’s a funny story, because I remember when I was 11 years old I had to beg my Dad to let me play. I think I even cried so that he would say yes.”

Andy understands how his parents might have seen club sport as a distraction from getting a much-valued education, given what they had been through. Andy’s parents came to
New Zealand as refugees, having escaped from Cambodia during the rule of the communist Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s. This devastating government cost nearly two million
Cambodians their lives during the four years that would become known as the Cambodian Genocide.

“When I was younger I was told about this, just so that I would know where I had come from and how fortunate we were to live in this land of opportunity.”

Andy KruyAttending Freyberg High School gave Andy plenty of opportunities, and in particular allowed him to further his interest in sports. However, Andy was also faced with his
biggest challenge during his time at high school, when his mother passed away.

“I wanted to give up sport, and I actually took a month off to go back to Cambodia.”

On returning to New Zealand, Andy found his passion for sport had not left him, and what followed was what he personally considers one of his most successful years.

While in his last year of high school, Andy managed to juggle club sports, his role as a House Captain and school work, while also gaining scholarships that would enable him to attend Massey University. He made history as House Captain by leading his house to win the House Cup for the first time in 15 years. This was also the first year that he won a national title in long jump, breaking the long jump record held by former professional rugby player Mark Ranby.

At Massey University, Andy decided to switch his sporting focus to athletics. The close proximity of the track, and support from the Academy of Sport, helped him to balance
his studies with his training.

“Some days I would have to skip training to get assignments done, but overall it was really easy. After my lectures finished for the day I could jump straight down to the
track. If it had been even five kilometres away it would have been way more difficult.”

This balancing act between sport and study paid off for Andy, when he graduated from Massey with a Bachelor of Business Studies in Sport Management and Business Management, as well as making the senior grade in athletics.

With his degree in hand Andy has gone on to work at Sport Manawatu as a Community Sports Advisor. This role involves working with sports clubs and unions around the
region to increase participation in sport, increase junior numbers, and help groups with funding opportunities – work that Andy is loving.

Realistically, I have from now until I’m maybe 30, so that’s really only eight years to live this dream.

Meanwhile Andy’s job hasn’t slowed him down at all on the track. He gained a bronze medal in the 2013 New Zealand championship men’s 100 metres, and as a member of the New
Zealand men’s relay squad he and teammates Scott Burch, Zac Topping and William Smart came second in the 2013 senior men’s national competition.

Although he has to travel north every two months to train with the rest of the relay team, Andy himself has never felt he needed to move to further his sporting career. A big reason for this is the confidence he has in his coaches.

“Anne Thomson and George McConachy have been coaching me for a good five years now and our great relationship is getting results, so why move?”

These past few years have kept Andy quite busy, and although he may not have a lot of spare time outside sports, Andy knows he won’t be competing in athletics meets all his life. “Realistically, I have from now until I’m maybe 30, so that’s really only eight years to live this dream.”

A long way to go

Pulling the extra miles

Jakub Postrzygacz has traversed some of the world’s most dramatic and unforgiving landscapes by bike. He says it’s the physical and mental toughness that helps pull the extra miles.

Ten years ago, Jakub Postrgacz came across a group of journalists that were travelling in a four-wheel-drive convoy across Australia’s Canning Stock Route, the longest off-road trail in the world.

AustraliaHe says he was mesmerised by what he saw, and later completed the first unsupported crossing of the Canning by bike. The experience changed his life.

With a total distance of around 1850 kilometres, the Canning Stock Route is one of the toughest and most remote tracks in the world. It runs from Halls Creek in the Kimberley region of Western Australia to Wiluna in the mid-west region.

“I asked one of the journalists I met during an expedition, whether it would be possible to do such trip by bike and he basically just burst out laughing and said forget about it,” Jakub says.

However, Jakub was determined. It took a couple of years working with different companies to develop a bike that could ride in difficult sandy terrain and from there he completed the trip.

“It took 33 days and I lost 18 kilograms, which was a pretty good diet,” he says. “Nothing can really prepare you for such a long journey. Quite often you would ride for the whole day and cover 20 or 30 kilometres and you look at your speedometer and you know there’s another 1500 ahead of you before you finish.”

It’s the fittest people who can suffer the most because their bodies require more oxygen to work the muscles. You can be super fit at sea level but at 4000m above sea level that can change.

Jakub grew up in Poland, and moved to New Zealand eight years ago “for a woman”. His wife Adrianna came here as a child and then moved back to Poland again where she met Jakub in high school. She always wanted to come back and live here, so that’s what they did.

“We decided to do a cycling trip around New Zealand which was about 600km long just to experience the country a bit more. Then we decided that this was the place to be.”

His reason for coming to Palmerston however was business. Having worked with the Avanti cycling company for a number of years, he was asked to open up a new shop in the area.

“They needed someone to look after the existing customers and provide good service and so I ended up here.”

In the store, Jakub’s quite obviously in his element. This is a man for whom cycling is not merely a sport or a hobby. It is a passion. He lives and breathes it.

The whole family is interested in cycling to a certain degree. “All three children have bikes and we have a family bike with the kids on a trailer on the back and my wife on the back behind me.” He says.

While Jakub has been cycling ever since he can remember, his cycling expeditions really began when he was a teenager.

Downhill from here“Back in high school there was a priest who was very much into cycling who was one of the teachers in the school. Together we formed a club that would organise bicycle tours around Poland and later in Europe”

Jakub went to Italy and France – among other places – and says it was his first taste of adventure.

His interest kept growing.

He and his wife travelled around Ireland on bikes they built themselves at a scrap yard just outside of Dublin. The bikes are still intact. “We spoke to our friends last year and they say they are still using those bikes,” he says.

Jakub has taken on challenges that have never been completed before. He was motivated to do more he says “you get hungry and you want to look for more adventure.”

Helping handHe cycled in the Himalayas. It all came about when one of his good friends called him asking for advice regarding going to Tibet. He came back and told his wife about it who said; “You didn’t ask to go with him?”

“So I asked if he needed a logistical supporter and mechanic and he said ‘hell yeah’,” Jakub says.

It was a big call. At the time his daughter was only about three weeks old and they were just starting the new business, but it was too good of an opportunity to give up.

“We put the party together and went through China, and across Tibet to Nepal, through the friendship highway, and the basecamp of Everest. The basecamp was actually closed to visitors due to political tension before the Olympics, so there was a lot of sneaking past checkpoints at night and things like that. Luckily nobody was shot or arrested!”

When your body is pushed to its extreme and out of your comfort zone, it’s no longer a physical exercise but a mental exercise too

The trip took place in 2007. The whole journey took about a month including acclimatization, but consisted of about three weeks riding.

In terms of training Jakub says he was too busy with family and work and had to “pull some extra miles on the trip.” He says the biggest challenge was the altitude.

“It’s the fittest people who can suffer the most because their bodies require more oxygen to work the muscles. You can be super fit at sea level but at 4000m above sea level that can change.”

In taking on these sorts of trips, Jakub has become well-versed in the challenges that come along with them.

Admiring the viewsHe says both long-term endurance and psychological strength are essential. “When your body is pushed to its
extreme and out of your comfort zone, it’s no longer a physical exercise but a mental exercise too,” he says.

In cycling the Manawatu, Jakub says the best thing is that there are many fantastic rides within an hour or two hour’s drive of Palmerston North’s city centre. “Proper, world-class, wonderful trips.”

In New Zealand he says some of his favourite trails to ride are in the Central Plateau and the Bridge to Nowhere in Whanganui National Park.

“If you enjoy meeting new people, great food and great wine then you can’t beat the rail trail.”

Tough goingLooking to continue his impressive portfolio of cycling expeditions, the trip he’s planning next is certainly an ambitious one. “We’ve been working on a big project for quite a few years now to go and cycle the South Pole.“

Jakub was once lucky enough to meet Sir Edmund Hillary and was given some sound advice over a cup of tea and some homemade biscuits.

“He said you should search for adventure. If you find one you should take all you’ve got, all your strength, experience and passion. If you succeed you will have the privilege of doing something for the first time.”

Jakub says it’s made him a different person.

Jorge at home

A Chilean’s legacy

Jorge Sandoval has been many things in his time. From cabinet maker to international cycling promoter, his story is one of heartbreak, triumph and unwavering determination.

From an early age Jorge developed a love of cycling as the Tour of Chile rode through his home town of Tome, a small city by the sea. Jorge would follow the riders and listen to their languages as he dreamt of riding amongst them. Although his family was very poor and his country was in political upheaval, he describes his childhood as a time of “happiness and beauty”.

History in his handsHis childhood was to be cut short when he was denounced as a traitor for crimes against the dictator Augusto Pinochet at age 19. He was imprisoned in a concentration camp where he was tortured and bore witness to the murders of a number of his fellow prisoners. Unbeknown to the military, one of the camp guards was Jorge’s own brother, and both had to remain silent to ensure the other’s survival.

After a year of imprisonment he was released to his family, and as he left the camp he smuggled out a small wooden sign a fellow prisoner had made, to remember his ordeal by. Fearing for his life, Jorge decided to escape illegally to Argentina with his pregnant fiancée. After a short time in Argentina, the pair chose to immigrate to New Zealand, and on 26th November 1976 they landed in Wellington.

There wasn’t a day I didn’t think about my family, or my country.

After just four days Jorge was put to work in a factory for 12 hours a day, without knowing a word of English. He says the language gap caused workers to treat him with extreme prejudice: “because you can’t speak the language, they think you’re a dumb ass, they think you’re ignorant”. Jorge describes these years as the toughest: “there wasn’t a day I didn’t think about my family, or my country”.

Jorge found support for refugees at the time “non-existent”, and simple tasks like finding sugar in the supermarket would take Jorge hours. Jorge and his friends had to resort to tasting things in the aisles, and one of his friends mistakenly fed his family dog food, as he thought it was cheap ham.

Jorge reacts to hearing about an accident during a raceIt was only when Jorge joined a Wellington cycling club that he began to meet new people and learn the English language. “I had to adapt to New Zealand because New Zealand never adapted to me,” he says. Jorge proved to have a talent for the sport and within a couple of years he was selected to join the New Zealand cycling team, and began touring around the world.

In 1988 the team was to ride the Tour of Chile, providing Jorge with the chance to return to his home town and fulfil his childhood dream. When Jorge arrived, armed guards met him at the terminal and took him for questioning. He had no idea if they knew who he was or if they would imprison him again, but he was able to lie and enter undetected. He describes the ride through his town as one of the proudest moments of his life.

But Jorge’s influence off the road was to be his greatest contribution to the sport, and in 1988 Jorge launched the first Tour of Wellington. Before this, Wellington had had no tours or significant cycling events, prompting vigorous complaints from Jorge.

“One day they got so sick of me that they said, ‘You know what Jorge? You are so smart, why don’t you do it?’. So I did.” A quarter of a century later, it’s now the biggest international cycling event in the country, attracting riders from all over the world.

One day they got so sick of me that they said, ‘You know what Jorge? You are so smart, why don’t you do it?’. So I did.

His contribution to the sport became clear when he was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal in 2006, for both the men’s and women’s professional cycling tours. When he returned to Chile with the medal he was named as an honorary citizen, by the very man who had denounced him as a criminal all those years ago.

In 2011 the tour was renamed the New Zealand Cycle Classic and moved to Palmerston North, as Jorge considered Manawatu “the perfect cycle destination” with its smooth roads and stunning hill climbs. Jorge thinks cycling in the area is improving, but it pales in comparison with other countries where it is “second only to religion”.

Jorge, still proud of where he came fromHowever, Jorge describes a darker side to cycling in New Zealand, as drivers’ attitudes to cyclists are very poor. “I’ve never allowed my children on the road, because of what I have seen.” To improve the sport, Jorge feels drivers and cyclists need to try to understand each other better and share the road.

When Jorge had saved up enough money, he was able to bring both of his brothers to New Zealand to work. His brothers’ plight highlights the employment problems in Chile, as both brothers were out of work despite being accountancy and teaching professionals. The two brothers now own their own businesses and all three visit Chile once a year, as well as sending money every month to other family members.

Jorge feels that the country is beautiful, the schools and hospitals are excellent, and that life in New Zealand is full of possibilities. “A lot of immigrants come here and they are capable of a lot more, but you’ve got to work hard, don’t take no for an answer,” says Jorge.

“This country has done a lot for me, a lot. I’m not going to be here forever, but I hope that when I’m gone, people remember that this Chilean refugee came to this country and his legacy is here.”

Manawatu Walking Festival

Walking his way

Frank Goldingham is the face of walking for New Zealand. As the editor of ‘Walking New Zealand’ he has a passion for great walks and outstanding photography, and his magazine was the first in New Zealand to publish the ‘green prescription’, which refers to a doctor’s recommendation of using exercise to boost health.

Now in its 195th issue, the magazine has fostered the trend for designer walking. It provides stunning and spectacular pictures for the adventurous and artistic person, highlighting both national and overseas walks.

Manawatu Walking FestivalThe idea for the magazine came about fifteen years ago while Frank was visiting Australia. “I was walking the ‘city to surf’ when it occurred to me that there was a running magazine but not a walking magazine”. This idea has since grown into a successful nationwide magazine with more than 4,000 readers per month.

Another project that has grown out of the magazine is the Manawatu Walking Festival.  “I realised that there were walking festivals throughout the country such as Mangawhai and Waiheke Island but not in the Manawatu”.

The weekend long festival went from February 28 to March 2, and focused on putting Manawatu “on the map” and bringing people together to enjoy the great walks of the area.

“We had 170 participants which is great because even though it is small, it will grow. I prefer the idea of walking and ending up at a café where you can sit down and have a chat – which is what made the festival so popular”. Frank says he is already looking forward to organising next year’s event.

FrankIn terms of favourites, Frank feels the vineyard walk was one of the most successful because “you don’t associate Manawatu with wine. The biggest surprise though was the popularity of the Twilight Beach Walk, which is a 9km walk from Foxton Beach to Himatangi Beach”. Some of Frank’s personal favourites include the Bridal Track, the Gorge Walk and the Fern Walkway in Pohangina.

Along with his passion for walking, Frank is also a keen photographer and publisher. He started the Feilding Herald newspaper from scratch, and has also published a number of royal tour and photo books. “Back when there was no television I would be on royal tours, so I would write a book and it would be on sale the next day”.

For those unconvinced, Frank believes that walking has become so popular because it is cheap and enjoyable, and is an activity for everyone and anyone. “It is a great way to meet people and explore some great places of New Zealand. There are a lot of varieties and it doesn’t cost a lot. All you need is a good pair of shoes and you are on your way”.

Shane Rufer

Passing it on

Shane Rufer was one of the first New Zealanders to play professional football in Europe, and has been one of the biggest influences in developing and promoting football in this country. To call him something of a football superstar is not a stretch, and since settling in Palmerston North to be
closer to his children, Shane’s work with the local football community has influenced a large number of talented children.

Shane RuferWhen he first returned to New Zealand after a decade of playing and coaching for Swiss professional teams, Shane and his brother Wynton had a dream of starting football academies. They hoped to discover talent and develop football in our country. The brothers started their first academy in Auckland, and upon his move to Palmerston North, Shane decided to go solo and the Shane Rufer School of Football was born.

“Football is underdeveloped in New Zealand, so it was natural for me to bring my experiences from Europe and pass them on,” Shane shares.

He enjoys working with talented players, but admits that it is rare to discover talent. However, there is space to develop and influence children through sports life skills, like teamwork, discipline and self-esteem.

Shane lives by the principle of “you need to love what you are doing”, because he admits that it is difficult to make a living in football in New Zealand. Through his diverse programmes in the School, he gives his students the opportunity to go overseas, to New Caledonia and Japan, to train and discover the world of football. In turn, he invites foreign students to visit here and interact with the Kiwi culture.

Through the pursuit of discovering new talent and refining their skills, Shane does face stressful and taxing periods, but says, “You have to learn to be calm in the good times and calm in the bad times”.

Retirement for Shane is a far-fetched thought. “Every day you need to fight. Before challenging the world, you need to fight yourself.” For Shane it is something he has done all his life, and he looks forward to doing it for more years to come.

www.schooloffootball.co.nz