Taranaki athletes hope to shine on their new wheelchairs

October 3, 2018

Two young athletes will be using the Rolls Royce of wheelchairs when they take part in the Halberg Junior Disability Games this week.

But while 20-year-old Samantha Burgham owns her nearly $5000 basketball chair outright thanks to a grant, Milly Marshall-Kirkwood, 10, has to give her track racing machine back once the games are over.

The games, which are open to all 8 to 21 year olds with a physical or visual impairment, are on in Auckland this weekend. Ten young people from Taranaki will be competing.

These games will be her second, Burgham, who has cerebral palsy, said.

“I just really love the environment, being in the sporting environment, and meeting other athletes. Everyone is so nice. It’s good to be able to do everything and give everything a go.”

She will be competing in a number of sports including athletics, archery, pop tennis and thanks to support from the Halberg Foundation who paid nearly $4000 for the new wheelchair, basketball, which is her favourite. 

“You can see how the wheels are tilted inwards and it’s a lot lighter and easier than my everyday chair to play in.”

Burgham plays wheelchair basketball every week in New Plymouth.

“I just love it. just being with everyone and the competitiveness of it.”

Milly will also have the use of a new wheelchair when she races at the games.

The track racing wheelchair belongs to Parafed Taranaki. It cost about $5000 and was bought with a grant from the Lion Foundation. 

Last year Milly raced in her regular chair and is looking forward to trying the new one, she said.  

Milly will compete in swimming, athletics, wheelchair basketball, table tennis, archery and gymnastics.  

“It’s fun. You get to meet lots of people.” 

Last year Milly had the longest discus – her favourite event – throw for her age group and she hit a bullseye in archery.

Milly has Marfan Syndrome, which is a genetic condition that affects the body’s connective tissue, Milly’s mum Paula Marshall said.

“Basically connective tissue is like your scaffolding that holds your joints in place. The connective tissue that holds Milly’s joints in place are very lax and have collapsed in her feet. She has had several surgeries to try help with that. It is very difficult to correct.”

It also causes quite a significant cardiac condition and results in reduced muscle strength.

Parafed have organised training sessions with Sport Taranaki for the Taranaki team so that’s been fantastic because the whole family goes along, Marshall said.

Tracy Coker, who is the sport development adviser for Parafed Taranaki, said they got funding for programmes to train for the games.

This year it was athletics, she said. 

The other Taranaki athletes going to the games are: Tipene Stephens, Alyssa McCarty, Michael Swanepoel, Anton Besseling, Amy Ellis, Callum Rae, Jack Brown, Jake Ryan.


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