Young lifeguard an Oceans inspiration

Friday, 22 February 2013

Will White may not win a medal this week but he's already a champion in the eyes of many of his fellow athletes.

The 12-year-old Waihi Beach surf lifesaver is competing in the Oceans 13 New Zealand under-14 surf lifesaving championships in Mount Maunganui, against nearly 800 athletes from 40 clubs around the country.

He's got a hectic race schedule too - entered in 11 of the 12 events in the busy four-day programme - but that doesn't faze him.  Just before New Year, the Waihi College Year 8 student and his cousin Sergio Schuler saved the life of a fisherman at Waihi Beach in a textbook rescue.

Will helped Auckland resident Vincent Shao stay afloat after he'd been caught in a rip, while Sergio went for help.

"I knew what to do because of my surf lifesaving training - I just had to keep us both calm," Will, who has been in the Waihi Beach nippers program for four years, explained.

Now he's putting those skills to a more competitive use, amid the flurry of colour at the annual Oceans event.

"I like competing against other kids my age and seeing how good I am."

Surf Life Saving New Zealand general manager of programmes and services Brett Sullivan said Will's example was an inspiration to his fellow athletes.

"We're all proud of the way Will responded that day and it was a great example of the skills we practice in competition being put into a real-life scenario," Mr Sullivan said.  "He showed that you don't have to be a six-foot hulk to save a life - you just have to know what you're doing."

There were other examples of courage on display in Mount Maunganui today - 12-year-old Omanu athlete Ella Pollock broke her wrist during yesterday's beach flags competition, an event she dominated last year.

Not daunted, today she turned up on the beach with a cast on her arm and proceeded to win her beach sprint semifinal, booking a place in Sunday's final.

Auckland's Orewa club continues to build an early lead midway through the second day, with Mairangi Bay, Mount Maunganui, Omanu and Red Beach in hot pursuit. 

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Waihi Beach surf lifesaver Will White competing at the Oceans 13 New Zealand under-14 surf lifesaving championships in Mount Maunganui. Photograph by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Journalism