Ruth is the human interest reporter and a photographer for the Bay of Plenty Times.

AIMS Games ready to kick off

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Tauranga Intermediate Girls 7's (back l-r) Te Rere Moeke, Mere Blake, Rehera Wehi, Emma Tasi, and Imit Hawkins with Kyana Warbrick in front are looking forward to the AIMS Games. Photo/Andrew Warner
Tauranga Intermediate Girls 7's (back l-r) Te Rere Moeke, Mere Blake, Rehera Wehi, Emma Tasi, and Imit Hawkins with Kyana Warbrick in front are looking forward to the AIMS Games. Photo/Andrew Warner

After months of training, coaching and mentoring, the 13th annual AIMS Games are set to kick off.

The Tauranga-based sporting tournament for children will feature more than 9300 competitors across 21 sporting codes when it starts on Sunday.

It was the largest sporting tournament of its kind in New Zealand, having grown significantly in each of the 13 years it had been running.

The 9300 athletes would be accompanied by 1500 coaches, parents and supporters from the 275 schools which attend the games.

The games would be held across 16 different venues in the Western Bay of Plenty.

Tauranga Intermediate School assistant principal Blake Carlin said they had 300 students competing from across the school.

"Each year the level of competition increases and with this comes added preparation.

Many of our teams started strategically thinking, planning and organising as soon as the final whistle blew in September 2015.

"The AIMS Games are definitely the pinnacle of sport nationally for this age group."

Mr Carlin said many of the schools families were billeting individuals from Cobham Intermediate in Christchurch.

"What better chance will there be for local residents to showcase the diversity and calibre of Tauranga's sporting venues", said Sarah Lewis, sponsorship and leverage manager at Tauranga City Council.

Otumoetai Intermediate principal Henk Popping said the school was sending its "biggest ever" contingent with 370 students in 26 different sporting codes.

Mr Popping said the schools had volunteers from throughout the community, including Matua Bowling Club, helping their students in the lead up for the games.

"The training for AIMS Games really started in Term One for some of them."

Mr Popping said about 80 per cent of the school's children took part in a sport but for many the Aims Games would be the only time they would take part in a national tournament.

"The sheer excitement of going to a sporting event and supporting each other and taking part in that school pride, it's great. We also having students helping out at the games, so it's sort of become a community event as well for our school," he said.

"It's great to not only participate but to contribute as well."

The games started in 2004 with 750 students taking part.

AIMS Games tournament director Vicki Semple said all the organising for the games had been done, only excitement was left for people taking part.

"It's a great experience ... for most of these children it will be the biggest sporting event they will compete in with us being not much smaller than the Olympic Games.

"It's also a very exciting time for them to represent their school and their region."

Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby said the games were so much more than just a sporting tournament.

"It fosters community spirit and local pride, as well as promotes the Tauranga area and boosts the local economy. It is a chance for all residents to really show off our city,'' he said.

For more information on the Aims Games, click here.

Sporting stars will attend this year's games:

All Black hooker Nathan Harris, sevens representative Kelly Brazier and a number of Olympic stars would be at the AIMS Games supporting young athletes.

Rio canoe slalom silver medallist Luuka Jones will be a guest speaker at the opening ceremony, helping welcome canoe slalom as one of three new AIMS Games sports this year, while another new sport - BMX - will have Olympians Sarah Walker, Kurt Pickard and Trent Jones at their finals day.

Sailing siblings Sam and Molly Meech - fresh from winning bronze and silver respectively in Rio - will also be at the games.

- Additional reporting Kiri Gillespie

- Bay of Plenty Times

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