Showcasing opportunity was at the heart of the second Festival of Disability of Sport in Mount Maunganui at the weekend.
The Healthvision Festival of Disability Sport, organised by Parafed Bay of Plenty, finished yesterday and participation from the inaugural event increased by more than 60 per cent.
A youth development have a go day was held on Saturday and one of the talking points was powerchair football. The sport has athletes with physical disabilities use power wheelchairs and two teams of four players use chairs equipped with foot guards to attack, defend and spin-kick the ball.
The Festival of Sport 2019 Awards Dinner was held on Saturday and Tauranga powerchair footballer Toby Lipinski was named the Bayfair emerging talent winner. His father Murray Lipinski is a powerchair football coach, is a member of the New Zealand Powerchair Football Committee and ran the weekend's tournament where North Auckland were the winners.
"The skills players show on these machines is awesome," Murray says.
"There is no age limit, so it is for everyone. Having the event over two days, and a have a go day was great. We were right inside the door and people were saying 'wow what is this?'. People were all talking about these wheelchairs that look like little go-karts.
"They look at the chairs and think they can crash – but the bar on the front is to hit the ball."
Murray says the purpose-built chairs start at a cost of around $10,000 to get made in New Zealand.
"The sports chair is designed to do about 10km an hour and it is quite fast when you are sitting just off the ground."
Toby, along with Whakatāne's Jacob Lane, will attend the New Zealand Powerchair Football Championships in Taupō, starting on April 13.
Other codes were contested in Tauranga throughout the weekend – although the blind lawn balls was cancelled due to the weather.
Winners of the wheelchair rugby bash were the Dream Crushers. The teams were made up of individual players and the teams were evened up with the inclusion of Wheel Blacks players. The winning team included Amanda Lowry, Hayden Barton-Cootes, Hunter Wingfeild, Kevin Hoebergen, Nat Manville and Dave Tai.
Event manager Claudia West says the festival was a great success.
"It was so cool looking across the courts and seeing three different sports going on as well as all the spectators. We had encouraging enough numbers for the youth day, it was a good start for the festival. From that we are looking at developing a competition between Bay of Plenty and Poverty Bay youth teams next year. It is just opening doors for where we can take this event.
"At the awards dinner we had a great cross-section of sport and it did show the diverse range of sports and that we do have and the opportunities."
Festival of Sport 2019 award winners
Bayfair emerging talent award: Toby Lipinski, powerchair football
Tauranga city council coach of the year: Alistair Eagleson, sailability
McFall fuel sportsman of the year: Paul Hale, wheelchair rugby
ACC sportswomen of the year: Susan Curran, blind lawn bowls
Healthvision supreme award: Susan Curran
Parafed Bay of Plenty service to disability sport: Jim Savage