Northern presence in Rio

By Andrew Johnsen

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Strong set of athletes and officials going

RIO-BOUND: Blair Tuke (left) headlines a 16-strong Northland contingent heading to the Rio Olympics. With him is his 49er sailing partner Peter Burling, of Bay of Plenty. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES
RIO-BOUND: Blair Tuke (left) headlines a 16-strong Northland contingent heading to the Rio Olympics. With him is his 49er sailing partner Peter Burling, of Bay of Plenty. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

NORTHLAND will be sending what could be its largest ever contingent to Rio for the Olympics and Paralympics.

There will be 11 athletes and three para-athletes heading to Rio, competing across eight disciplines. In addition, there are two officials going.

The Northland party is: Blair Tuke (sailing), Shay Neal (men's hockey), Charlotte Harrison, Stacey Michelsen, Brooke Neal (all women's hockey), Portia Woodman (women's sevens), Abby Erceg, Hannah Wilkinson (women's football), Cameron Leslie (para-swimming), Chris Sharp (para-sailing) and Emma Foy (para-cycling).

Brothers Akira and Rieko Ioane (men's sevens) and Huriana Manuel (women's sevens), while from Auckland, all have Ngapuhi affiliations.

Jacob Lawgun will be heading over as the assistant coach for weightlifting, while James Morris will be an official for table tennis.

Sport Northland chief executive Brent Eastwood said it's great to see so many Northlanders heading to Rio.

"It goes to show what we have always thought. Northland probably punches above its weight when it comes to national sporting selections, given our population and low socio-economic status," he said.

"We are certainly a feeder province, but we know know the talent exists here in Northland, the issue for Northland is always to identify and develop that talent with the resources we have."

Having the number of Olympic and Paralympic athletes that Northland has, provides a great incentive for those coming through the ranks.

"Having so many Northland Olympians is fantastic in terms of role-modelling for our youngsters," Eastwood said. "Our youth look up to these athletes and are inspired to think that they can go on to represent NZ on the world stage having grown up in Northland."

Kerikeri's Blair Tuke shapes as Northland's greatest hope for Olympic gold, although the sevens sides and the women's hockey team will be in the medal hunt.

Paralympic swimmer Cameron Leslie is a hot favourite for gold in the pool at Rio.

- Northern Advocate

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