By Te Ahua Maitland
Wintec Journalism student
Sylvie Ruahe has dreams of playing in the US Tennis Open and emulating her hero Serena Williams.
Instead the Year 8 Redoubt North School student is doing the next best thing.
She’s competing in this year’s NZCT AIMS Games which brings together more than 8000 intermediate aged students from around New Zealand.
While Williams is attempting to win her seventh US Open this week and complete a calendar grand slam, Ruahe hopes to forge a similar path to the American superstar.
“She’s big like me and darker than her opponents and there’s not many like her,” Ruahe said. “I want to be like her – she’s an inspiration for an island girl like me.”
Ruahe has joined fellow tennis player Peata Fatai, with this being the first trip to Tauranga for both girls.
Their decile one school has made the experience even more memorable, putting them up in the luxurious Oceanside Resort & Twin Towers in Mount Maunganui.
“It’s very flash and we got lost in the building,” Ruahe admitted.
Fatai added: “It’s pretty cool, it’s a nice view – the beach, the mount, and the harbour out the window.”
Redoubt North sport co-ordinator Charlotte Tegg said they brought down a boys’ football team last year, staying at the same hotel. Many of the boys had never been out of Auckland and some hadn’t ever set foot on a beach.
“We try to make it an experience for them,” she said.
Tegg added that they hope to bring other sports teams down next year.
Ruahe’s mother Gina said the girls had been blown away by the experience.
“We feel very privileged,” she said. “It’s great to give the children this sort of experience and they’ll have something to always look back on.”
Both girls grew up around tennis as both sets of parents played. It’s their fulltime sport, they train five days a week all year round and compete in both summer and winter tournaments.
Ruahe is the eighth-seed at this week’s tournament and hopes to reach tomorrow’s playoffs while Fatai is ranked 23rd.
And it’s not just tennis they excel at – the girls have each gained secondary school scholarships with Ruahe going to St Cuthbert’s and Fatai destined for St Kentigern’s next year.
After tomorrow’s singles playoff, the good friends will join forces in the doubles competition, starting on Thursday.