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Pride at stake for Top Town's title pretenders

By Jarrod Booker

Their claim to be reigning champions has been proven a myth, but the pride of Greymouth is still at stake as it prepares for the new series of Top Town.

The small West Coast town does not often get a chance to compete for national honours, and hopes are high it can return to the glory days of 1978 when it beat all comers to win the televised event matching regular folk on all manner of obstacles.

Fifteen towns will revive the competition, last held in 1990, when heats begin in the host city of Christchurch tomorrow.

The new, updated version of Top Town has even come with a light-hearted feud in the lead-up, with Greymouth claiming to be reigning champions on account of a cup sitting in the local council offices that had their town named on it as the most recent winners.

Once national media reports began mentioning Greymouth as reigning champions, an unimpressed Wairoa was quick to point out it won the last Top Town event in 1990, and therefore it held the true status of reigning champion. Wairoa will not get to compete in the new Top Town.

"There was confusion," said Greymouth Mayor Tony Kokshoorn. "I suppose at the end of the day it was a bit of an argument between the two towns who was the top town, but it was all good promotion for everyone and I think it's just a good laugh."

The six men and six women, nicknamed the Wetas, come from all walks of life, including a coalminer who has been coming straight out of the mines for training sessions.

Though the fitness of some may be questionable, organiser and "camp mother" Debbie Collings says there is plenty of passion to make up for it.

"There's a whole heap of history. It means an awful lot to us.

"We still consider ourselves to be the holder of the cup. So we are defending it, we consider. It's our fighting spirit to keep our name up there."

The team does not know what to expect.

The obstacles are certain to be more complex and challenging than in the past, given that what used to take two days to construct is now taking about 17 days.

"All we know is there's lots of water, and lots of strength," Ms Collings said.

"So trying to train for that is pretty hard."

- NZ Herald

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