I have tended to have a healthy disrespect for jocks in the past.

I don't mean the haggis-eating variety that have a stronghold in Waipu. I mean the sporty types, the athletes, the swaggering alpha females and males.

I remember when I was at Whangarei Boys' High, I was in disbelief that all the first XV who made it through to the seventh form were made prefects. I thought it was unjust.

Upon reflection, however, believing that my peers and I would become prefects was somewhat deluded. At that stage of our lives, we were embracing punk rock, anarchy and antisocial behaviour rather enthusiastically. In fact, very few of us made it to the seventh form.


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This year, I have had to re-examine my attitude towards the sporting community which is so prominent in New Zealand. They have put diverse back into diversity. Over the past year or so, I have been rather irritated by the way diversity has been treated as a binary issue. Male and female, pay equity, representation on boards etc.

Even Obama fell into the trap of having a narrow view of diversity in his speech to the Who's who of New Zealand by focusing on the importance of women in leadership.

Now don't get me wrong, I know the importance of this matter. Just ask my wife. But surely, diversity is more than just a balance of male and female. It's even more than the vast array of ethnicities that we have in Godzone. It's about sexual identities, ages, and of course impairments and disabilities and gender fluidity.

Paralympic sport has done a stellar job of easing physically disabled sportspeople seamlessly into mainstream media. I remember when Paralympics was separately reported on.

But this year, sports commentators read out the accomplishments of para-athletes along with their able-bodied counterparts, paying homage to the real meaning of Para sports, not being a shortened version of paraplegic but rather a shortened version of parallel.

It's only Tuesday as I write and when I went to look at what medals para athletes from New Zealand had won — I couldn't — it's so mainstreamed that the medal tally has homogenised results from both sides of the camp.

I've seen coverage of Holly Robinson winning silver in the Para javelin event and of course, Sophie Pascoe for her twin gold-medal triumphs in the pool. Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard has also bravely brought diversity to the fore, and the predictable controversy.

It appears today, if our Aussie Commonwealth Games are anything to go by, that the once-conservative sporting establishment are now the vanguard for diversity and inclusion. Howzat?

■ Jonny Wilkinson is the CEO of Tiaho Trust — Disability A Matter of Perception, a Whangarei-based advocacy organisation.