Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Disabled kids big winners in Kiwi-Oz sport challenge

New Zealand representative Kieran Lane (left) with his team leader, Marc Ellis.
New Zealand representative Kieran Lane (left) with his team leader, Marc Ellis.

After a gruelling 1300km transtasman battle, the Kiwis yesterday raced to victory in the ANZA Challenge to raise money for kids with disabilities.

In the race, sports stars and celebrities ran, rowed and cycled around New Zealand fundraising for the Halberg Disability Sport Foundation.

Racing started on Tuesday in Wellington, where teams paddled the equivalent distance of Cook Strait on rowing machines.

Fortunately for the New Zealand team, Olympic gold medal-winning rowing pair Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan were on board.

"It's been a tough week - I can barely move now," Cohen said yesterday. "I'm going to go home and sleep for a few days, I think."

The contestants then took turns cycling from Nelson to Christchurch and then Christchurch to Dunedin. They flew on Friday to Hamilton, from where they ran more than 100km to Auckland.

Other young NZ representatives line up in the Auckland Domain yesterday for the running race. More than 700 children and adults competed. Photo / Dean Purcell
Other young NZ representatives line up in the Auckland Domain yesterday for the running race. More than 700 children and adults competed. Photo / Dean Purcell

The race culminated yesterday with simultaneous runs in Sydney and Auckland.

In Auckland, more than 700 children and adults raced around the Domain, some of them taking part in the Herald-sponsored 5km schools race for students aged 11-18.

Representing Australia were rugby league legend Laurie Daley, former league and Wallaby star Wendell Sailor, Olympic cyclist Shane Kelly, and Olympic rower Dan Noonan.

The New Zealand team's leader, former rugby and league player Marc Ellis, said the event had been gruelling, but was for an immensely worthy cause. "Getting kids to socialise is the key to forming relationships and sport's a very good conduit for that. I've got my arms and legs but some kids aren't so fortunate, so we love what the Halberg Foundation stands for."

Aucklander Kieran Lane, 16, was delighted at having a chance to help the NZ team to victory. "I just love running so to have the opportunity to represent NZ has been amazing.

"We went to meet kids at a school the other day and they even got me to sign autographs.

"This one kid came up to me because he has cerebral palsy on his left side just like I do, so he was really happy to see what I was doing. I think it would have inspired him, and it was great for me."

Halberg Disability Sport Foundation chief executive Geoff Burgess said the organisation saw sport as a great way to enhance the lives of the disabled.

"That was Sir Murray Halberg's aim so it's wonderful to see elite athletes lining up and helping these people. That synergy is just tremendous."

- APNZ

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