Chalk one up for the little guys.
Kayaker Vinnie Bloor has secured the first-ever Anchor AIMS Games medal for tiny Pyes Pa school near Tauranga, taking home the Year 7 canoe slalom crown.
It was a sweet victory for the 12-year-old, one of only 20 eligible Year 7 and 8 students at the rural school, 14 of whom are competing this week.
The other six joined Pyes Pa principal Blake Carlin and Bloor’s parents, cheering on the banks on Lake McLaren, as the young paddler edged Corin Rankin (Tauranga Intermediate) despite a hiccup in the final.
“The first roll didn’t really work out so I ended up having to do another but that went OK luckily,” Bloor said. “It was a pretty tough course and it was pretty tiring but I put in everything I could.”
Carlin was especially pleased – he joined Pyes Pa – a full primary school with a roll of 200 from Year 1-8 – after a stint as Tauranga Intermediate deputy principal, which has 1300 prospective AIMS Games students.
“Pyes Pa is great little community, everyone knows everyone and they’re all really invested in the school,” Carlin said. “This is a huge deal for the school – we shot back after Vinnie’s win and told the rest of the school and they were absolutely stoked.”
Carlin joked they were probably going to make canoe slalom the national sport of Pyes Pa, hold a ticker-tape welcoming parade through the neighbouring paddock and institute a Pyes Pa public holiday, in honour of the medal.
Bloor, meanwhile, would love to emulate his heroes, Luuka Jones and Mike Dawson, and compete in the Olympics representing New Zealand – and of course, Pyes Pa.
The 60-strong canoe slalom contingent produced a number of tight finals; Taradale Intermediate’s Reese Drager edged Matamata’s Molly Brown in the Year 7 girls decider, while Tauranga Intermediate’s Kate Hawthorne got past Mokoia’s Pipi Uhl in the Year 8 final. Uhl also won silver last year in the inaugural year of the sport at AIMS.
Otumoetai Intermediate’s Blair Ashton, meanwhile, got past last year’s Year 7 winner Brin Watson in the Year 8 decider.