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Published 06 November 2023

“Let’s rip the band-aid off and get it over and done with,” says Para athlete Rawiri Tristram-Brown as he chats about handling pre-race jitters.

Rawiri is 14 years old, Māori and Samoan and uses a wheelchair. He is along the side of a pool wearing a yellow and blue sports jacket.

Rawiri at his swimming competition

Most 14-year-olds would cringe at the idea of 6am wake ups every Saturday, but in the world of Rawiri, sport is his bread and butter.

Being born with Spina Bifida hasn’t affected the honours pouring in, Rawiri already has a number of awards under his name. The young athlete made his grandparents, Roy and Mabel proud by making the New Zealand Tri-series team to face Australia in September.

Rawiri placed 4th in his first international 200 m Freestyle mixed Multi-class Rawiri timed at 3m 17s.

“We started Rawiri at the pool from 6 years old to support his strength, and now look at him.” says an extremely proud Grandpa Roy.

When Rawiri isn’t training or competing at national swimming events, he carves up the basketball court. In September he took out MVP for the 2023 National League Division 2 Tournament. Because of his keen determination and talent, the Horowhenua college student has been travelling across Aotearoa too with his grandparents as they watch him compete.

Rawiri is wearing a Manawatū basketball shirt steering his wheelchair with his left hand, holding onto a basketball with his other hand.

Rawiri carving up on the basketball court

“We’ve seen more of New Zealand this year than I have in my life. It’s really cool to see him compete! He never complains, he works hard and just gets on with it,” says Roy.

With a full on schedule, it would be understandable if sports were the only thing Rawiri has time for. But in Roy and Mable’s household, a good life balance is key to a good life.

“Tuesday, I get picked up from grandad swim for two hours, Wednesday is basketball plus some more laps around the pool for an hour. Thursday, I do more swimming, and Friday I just chill with my mates, and Saturday I’m up at 6 to have breakfast and swim.” he says.

Rawiri has always felt a wave of support from his community, In 2018 his primary school and wider community got behind him to fundraise $1600 so he can compete at the Halberg games. But when Roy was searching for funding for his talented grandson, he discovered the funding bias towards team sports in Aotearoa.

“I ended up ringing lots of different organisations. Most of them were keen to support teams but for individuals it was very difficult. We eventually found someone who's willing to help, Te Pou.”

“I’m always thankful,” Rawiri responds, “especially to my Grandpa and Nan.”

When asked about his aspirations and goals, Rawiri is aiming for gold, literally. “It’d be pretty cool if I made it to the Paralympics,” he says.

With Rawiri’s determination and talent, it won’t be surprising to see him standing for Aotearoa and his community on the Paralympic international stage in a few years.

Learn more about the Halberg Foundation at Halberg Foundation - Halberg Disability Sport Foundation (external link)

Discover other financial supports that are available from public, private and other funding sources across New Zealand at Financial Support for disabled people » Firstport