A Stratford woman has been selected for the New Zealand Waka Ama Para Va'a Team that will represent New Zealand at the IVF World Sprint Championships in Tahiti next month.
Jo Pikia, who recently moved to Taranaki from Hamilton, is part of a team of 13 which is made up of both men and women of all age groups. She will compete in a crew of six as well as individually during the competition which is being held between July 16 and 26.
Waka ama — or outrigger canoeing — been used in the Pacific Islands for centuries and is now a growing sport in New Zealand .
Five teams will represent New Zealand during the championships and will compete against teams from all over the worlds, including top teams from Tahiti.
Jo has been involved with the sport for eight years and was previously involved with dragon boat racing for 10 years.
"I got into waka ama through people who were doing it at the time and then I stopped because I went to Australia but suffered a serious spinal injury and became an incomplete paraplegic."
The accident happened in 2013 and meant that although Jo was disabled from the chest down — she still had some feeling in parts of her body.
She was in the spinal unit in Brisbane for eight months and was confined to a wheelchair up until 2015 when she returned home from Australia, and was determined to walk and be mobile again.
Jo says it was important for her to get mobile and involved in sport again as she had always been interested in health and fitness.
"Waka ama has given me the ability to get back into sport because I can use my upper body. Getting back into sport is what my life is about."
This will be the third time Jo has competed in a world competition.
In 2016 she got two silver medals at the world sprints in Australia after competing in a crew as well as individually and last year her six-person crew won a silver in Tahiti at the long distance worlds. Jo had a special mention at the event as the only para woman to complete the 18km distance singles race.
After getting home from the worlds Jo will be focused on her ultimate goal — to be selected for the New Zealand paralympics 2020 team.
"It's the first time the sport will be represented at the Paralympics and I hope I can get there."
Jo needs sponsors. Contact her if you can help 020 409 12849.