If Ezra Dalley’s burgeoning swimming career doesn’t work out, pencil him in for a diplomatic post somewhere. Maybe as an ambassador? Heck, send him straight to the United Nations.
The 12-year-old is the sole representative from Westburn School in Christchurch attending this year’s NZCT AIMS Games, which has attracted more than 8000 intermediate-aged athletes to Tauranga.
His school fundraised to help send him, using the Year 7 as a bit of a test case, to see whether they’d send more athletes in future. It’s fair to say it’s been a successful gambit.
Not only did Dalley walk away with 200m backstroke silver and 100m individual medley bronze on a hectic finals night in the swimming, he also dazzled tournament officials and media with his impeccable manners and articulate answers.
“It feels really good knowing I’m representing my school for the first time at the AIMS Games – it’s been quite an experience and the Games are one of the biggest events I’ve been to,” Dalley explained, pride etched in his voice. “I came for the competition but it’s the whole experience I’ll take away with me – the whole thing has been amazing and hopefully the school will send a bigger team up next year so we can try other events.”
With family back home in Christchurch glued to the live-streaming of the swimming finals, Dalley surpassed his wildest dreams.
“A realistic goal for me was to get into a final or two but I ended up making finals in every event I entered and picked up medals in two of them. Actually placing in the top-three in two events was amazing – I was just so happy and hoping like anything I wasn’t going to get DQ’ed from any.”
He set personal bests in four of his finals, narrowly missing more medals in both the 200m individual medley and the 50m backstroke but admitted exhaustion set in during his 100m backstroke final as he faded to sixth.
Tournament co-founder and AIMS Games trustee Henk Popping said the young South Islander was proof you didn’t need a gold medal to be a champion.
“I was introduced to Ezra at the medal ceremony and was immediately impressed by his whole attitude and demeanor,” Popping explained. “If he’s the sort of representative Westburn are going to send us in future, we’d warmly welcome the whole school!”
Of the 261 schools at this year’s Games, 43 are represented by single athletes, with 13 schools making the trip up from Christchurch. The tournament, which goes until Friday, is the biggest of its kind in Australasia.
See all our NZCT AIMS Games news at: www.news.nzaimsgames.co.nz