Highland Games: New stars rise as stalwart steps down

By Cameron Leslie

The 142nd annual Waipu Highland Games is always a spectacle, and a fine way to kick-start the new year.

This year saw a number of athletes winning across numerous disciplines, including Kerikeri half marathon winner Harry Linford cleaning up in the men's athletic division.

Other double, or sometimes triple, winners on Tuesday were Kane Gordon, Tori Kolose, Fionn Blackman, Niamh Blackman and Lexi Fleming.

A highlight of the day involved young Kate Lee, who dominated the under-10 Irish jig, hornpipe and sword dance before pressing on and making a good go of it in the under-11 and under-12 divisions.

Lee went on to take out the under-12 Irish jig and finish up second in the Irish hornpipe under-13 divisions. She also received VHC and HC awards in the under-11 Highland Fling and under-12 sailors hornpipe, respectively.

Another highlight, and a lowlight, was the retirement of Pat Hellier after winning his 18th consecutive New Zealand Highland Heavyweight Games championship.

The 41-year-old is one of Northland's - and New Zealand's - finest athletes and has stepped out of the limelight after dominating his chosen sport for 18 years.

Hellier will be back to see how the Games goes next year, when 25-year-old Aucklander Jono Macfarlane, a security guard completing a degree in theology, is tipped to replace him as New Zealand Highland Heavyweight champion.

"If they will have me, I'll be back as a judge or a commentator," Hellier said.

- Northern Advocate

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