A family tragedy is driving Ema Iuli to chase World Masters Games' glory in three sports.

Her mother Sime and father Iti both died within months of each other when Iuli was a teenager. Her mother was 50 and her father was 48.

"They both died of sudden heart attacks, and it's just traumatic. Even now in my 40s I'm still trying to deal with it."

Iuli, from Papakura, turns 50 on Sunday, and said she wanted to stop the trend of her family members dying early.


"I just thought we've got to change our lives... my siblings and I were getting obese. We're all now heading to our parents' ages when they passed away, we're on a journey to change that for the sake of being around for our kids.

"Right now there's so many dads and mums dying because of heart attacks and heart disease. I've been to so many funerals of young people my age dying, and we need to change something."

At her heaviest Iuli weighed 127kg, having become obese in her early 30s. In 2008 she decided to turn her life around and engage in physical activity.

She now weighs 80kg, and is competing in basketball, touch and triathlon at the World Masters Games - "bringing back the old glory days", she said.

"We used to play sports when we were younger, so that was my inspiration. I hit 49 and thought I'd never done World Masters before. It's been amazing and inspiring.

"It's about making a life change."

Iuli has no children of her own, but said it was a comment from her nephew that made her decide to make an effort to get back into sport.

"He said now that we're older we're not doing anything, so I think that was the wake up call."

She said the best part about taking part in the Games has been meeting people from all over New Zealand and the world.

"Sport is such a community hub, I'm actually having lunch right now with someone I've just met through this tournament.

"I've had so much fun leading up to it, all the practices. They're just amazing, and we're winning lots."

She signed up for basketball and touch as they were sports she had played when she was younger, while taking on the triathlon stemmed from her marathon running.

"I did my first full marathon last year, and then I couldn't help myself."

Iuli has no plans to put her feet up once the Games are over, having signed up to run the Rotorua Marathon on May 6.