New ambassador praises spirit of Master Games

By Zac Yates

Two Commonwealth Games gold medals, coach of our national netball team for their most successful decade, and a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

And now Ruth Aitken is the New Zealand Masters Games Ambassador, too.

The woman with the most international test match caps said at last night's opening ceremony she felt honoured and privileged to be asked to take part in the 2013 games.

"I must be honest and say I'm a Masters Games novice, this is my very first time," said Aitken.

"My good friend Leigh Gibbs was an ambassador but couldn't continue in the role, so she asked me if I'd like to do it.

"I've wanted to participate before but I've had a few other things on the go for the past few years," she joked to the crowd.

"I was fortunate to take part in the launch last year and I arrived with no idea or preconception as to what I should expect.

"What's struck me is the enthusiasm, passion and sheer energy which the Masters Games generates in the groups who take part."

Aitken was full of praise for the participants in the games, who she called an inspiration and incredible role models.

"Nothing that happens in New Zealand sport could happen without our volunteers. They give so much of their own time."

Aitken said she would try to take in as many events as she could. However, her time in Wanganui was limited.

"I've just signed a contract with the Mystics, so I have to get back on Sunday and get started on their training programme, otherwise I'd love to stay and see it all."

Mayor Annette Main spoke at the ceremony of her pride in taking part in cycling events alongside her father and sister.

"This participation by what's left of my family really epitomises the games to me, the philosophy of taking part, challenging yourself, and celebrating your successes."

The first success celebrated was of Naomi Crowder, winner of the participant award given at the ceremony.

It was her daughter Rachael who took up her mother's habit of doing something different for her birthday by entering her mother in the Dunedin Masters Games.

Quite a few games later, Naomi is in Wanganui again and entered in open water and pool swimming, road walks and tennis.

The award was presented by New Zealand Masters Games board chair Jim Harland, and left the 76-year-old speechless.

"I can talk for England, I'm not usually lost for words, but I am tonight," she said.


- Wanganui Chronicle

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