Rachel Māia has topped of a breakthrough year by claiming a national gong.

Fresh from the being the first New Zealand paraclimber to compete at the World Championships, the Whanganui woman has won the emerging athlete gong at the Attitude Awards.

She was one of three finalists in the category and was announced as the winner at a ceremony at Sky City in Auckland on Wednesday.

"I honestly didn't expect that, so it's pretty exciting," Māia said.


The emerging athlete award recognises future Paralympic stars and talented athletes who are supported by Parafed organisations and the Halberg Disability Sport Foundation.

Māia finished fourth in the world at the IFSC championships in Austria earlier this year.

"It's cool to be able to share that hard work, have a moment with the people who have helped get you there and to have a chance to acknowledge those people," she said.

"We work so hard, we fight for so much, so to come away with an award that recognises that is a huge honour."

Māia has the use of only one leg after shattering an ankle in a climbing accident as a teenager which led to degenerative and post-traumatic arthritis.

And she has now revealed her decision to have a below the knee amputation in January.

"It's been a heartbreaking decision and isn't without risk but the opportunity of gaining my mobility back and the chance to spend time being active with my kids is something worth fighting for."

Māia wants to follow that by heading to US nationals before qualifying for the World Championship in Japan. She is looking for sponsors for both events.

Meanwhile, Whanganui's Horticultural Services was also a finalist for an Attitude Award in the ACC employer category but missed out on the top prize.

Jan Lawton of Workbridge, which nominated the company, said the awards night was a "life-changing" experience.

"To see so many people with disabilities gathered in one place and hearing all the wonderful things they are doing is just so invigorating," she said.

*The awards screen on Sunday at 11am on TVNZ1.