Former Hokitika paralympian Holly Robinson's grandparents "cried tears of joy" when they woke to the news yesterday that she would be leading the New Zealand Paralympic team into the Maracana Stadium as flag bearer in Rio de Janeiro this morning.
The 21-year-old, who now lives in Dunedin, woke her grandmother, Shirley Crowley, with the news at 5.30am.
The announcement came as the New Zealand flag was officially raised in the Paralympic Village, and the 31-strong team assembled to receive a pounamu taonga, sourced from the Arahura River.
Speaking with the Guardian yesterday by Skype from the Rio village, Robinson, currently No 1 in the world in the women's paralympian javelin F46 event, said she was overwhelmed to be named.
"It's such an honour to be chosen. I am so excited to lead the team and to know that all our supporters, especially my family, are watching us will make the honour extraordinarily special.
"I always remember where I came from and I know I have huge support back home. It's amazing what support a small town can give."
Her "No 1 cheerleaders" were still taking in the news yesterday at their Kaniere home.
The Crowleys have kept every clipping and award since Robinson entered her first para-athletics event at the age of nine. She honed her skills at the Greymouth Junior Athletics Club under the tutelage of Danny Spark.
"I'm chuffed. I'm still in tears," Mrs Crowley said yesterday. "I've been behind her all the way. When she was born and she had one arm I always said she was born for something special."
That disability had never held her back, if anything it made her more determined, Mrs Crowley said.
"She's going to do five Olympics, she reckons."
Rio is Robinson's second Paralympics display, following on from the London 2012 Paralympics, when she was 17.
A year earlier she had made the decision to fully commit to her dream of becoming a Paralympian, accepting a scholarship to train in Dunedin under respected para-athletics coach Raylene Bates.
Her coach is also in regular contact with the Crowleys from Rio but they talk most days with their granddaughter on Skype, working around the 15-hour time difference.
Holly Robinson will have to wait until September 13 to compete in her single event.
- Hokitika Guardian