Sport | Olympics

Coastie cousins chase Olympic gold

The women's U18 sevens team are on their way to the Youth Olympics in Argentina.  Among them are two cousins from the Waiapu area, with an already proud rugby connection.

Kalyn Takitimu-Cook and Azalleyah Maaka both trace their heritage to Rangitukia on the East Coast, where All Black great George Nepia was a local, and the football park bears his name.

But it was only last year through rugby that they met.

Takitimu-Cook, who attends Manukura in Palmerston North, says, "I was trying to convince [Azalleyah] to come to my school.  That didn't really work out and then her mum met my dad and they did the tipuna background and started from there."

The cousins are part of a large contingent of Māori players in the first NZ sevens team to attend a Youth Olympics.

Of the twelve players going to Buenos Aires, ten are Māori.  The team unveiled a ceremonial patu today that they will carry with them to the third Youth Olympic games.

Takitimu-Cook says the leadership in the team has been strong since the they first got together in 2017.

"The culture started from the very beginning.  The other girls are able to adapt to everything that's happening."

The pair say that having a large whānau behind them, including a number who will be travelling to Buenos Aires to support them in person, can be intimidating and "nerve-racking" but all the support is "massive especially from the East Coast. Everyone knows everyone up there."

Should they be successful in bringing a gold medal back from South America, Maaka says a return home to the Waiapu district and share their success is a "must do" while Takitimu-Cook is certain she knows how her nan will react.

"She'll probably book the marae out, get all the aunts and uncles, go to the bush, go hunt down a pig, bring it back and then it'll be a big family feast from there."

The Waiapu women leave tonight with the rest of their team to Buenos Aires, and they begin their quest to return a gold medal to the Waiapu Valley next weekend when the tournament begins.