Masters Games: Mercury, Greenhalgh to play starring roles in opening ceremony

By Grant Chapman

Former Davis Cup representative James Greenhalgh will be standard bearer for tennis at the World Masters Games opening ceremony. Photo/Getty Images
Former Davis Cup representative James Greenhalgh will be standard bearer for tennis at the World Masters Games opening ceremony. Photo/Getty Images

Originally, Monica Mercury entered the World Masters Games basketball to play alongside her "inspirational" 75-year-old aunt in the basketball competition.

But Games organisers had bigger plans for Mercury and tomorrow night, she will read the athletes' oath as part of the official opening ceremony at Eden Park.

"It's an absolute honour, I'm truly grateful and I can't wait to get to the stadium and do it," she beams.

The Wellington primary teacher doesn't seem phased by the additional challenge at all, having practiced on the lines on her Houghton Valley School students.

"I'm deputy principal and have my own classroom," says Mercury, 49. "I've been teaching for 20 years, so I'm used to speaking to crowds - it's not a problem at all.

"Since I found out about six weeks ago, I've been practicing every moment I can get. As you get older, it's not always easy to remember things, but I think I've pretty much sorted it now."

Of Chinese and Maori descent, Mercury and her family are an institution in Wellington basketball. Her parents began their involvement in the 1940s, playing, coaching and administering the game in the region, and passing their passion on to their children in the process.

Monica Mercury posts up, as her Morehu team prepare for the World Masters Games. Photo supplied.
Monica Mercury posts up, as her Morehu team prepare for the World Masters Games. Photo supplied.

"All of us grew up in gyms, and ended up playing and coaching," says Mercury. "I've got two siblings - Rewi Thompson and Veronica Thompson - who represented New Zealand.

"We have an inspirational aunt - Kaye Wong - who played for New Zealand back in the 60s and she's still playing. She's at her fifth World Masters, she's won numerous medals and has a zest for life that we find infectious.

"We're here representing Morehu, which is the club our father established more than 30 years ago, and we have a lot of players who haven't seen each other for a long time, so that's a big part of our involvement."

Tomorrow's opening ceremony is open only to WMG2017 participants - athletes and officials, but not public - and unlike Olympics or Commonwealth Games, the Masters will march in representing their sports, not their countries.

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Former ATP tennis professional James Greenhalgh, 42, will carry the banner for his sport.

"I'm extremely excited about that," he says. "I feel very proud to be recognised in that way, after being involved in tennis a very long time."

Greenhalgh will combine with current NZ Davis Cup captain and former team-mate Alistair Hunt for the Masters doubles competition, while also pursuing his other sporting passion - golf.

"It's been 15 years since I played professional tennis," he insists. "I've been training with some younger age-group tennis players involved in the Masters Game, which I hope will sharpen me up for match day.

"During our careers, Alistair and I didn't play a lot of doubles together, but when we did, we were very successful, so I'm looking forward to that."

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Greenhalgh is not the only competitor from his household, though - wife Nuree, a former national track and field representative, will join former Silver Ferns netball captain Anna Stanley in a 4x400 metres relay team.

Other NZ standard bearers in the opening ceremony are Bronwyn McKeage (athletics), Jordan Kan (badminton), Shirl Samu (netball), David Vallance (rowing), Jim Buckeridge (rugby), Ian Clark (shooting), Tunisia Kaihau (softball), Mark Shieb (surf lifesaving), Raymond TeMaonanui (touch) and Odette Smith (weightlifting).

- NZ Herald

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