Award-winners enjoy NZ culture

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 April, 2011, 12:00am


After enjoying great success last year, four Zespri Outstanding Junior Athletes Award winners - windsurfer Crystal Man Ka-kei, table tennis player Kenneth Chiu Chung-hei, and wushu athletes Juanita Mok Uen-ying and Rex Wong Chun-wai - were lucky enough to go on a six-day cultural exchange tour to New Zealand earlier this month.

The nation is known for its kiwi fruit and the athletes were able to visit the kiwi fruit farm in Mount Maunganui run by Zespri, the kiwi fruit producer that sponsors the awards.

Kenneth, 17, said he was interested to learn about the nutritional value of the fruit. 'I haven't come across the detailed facts of the kiwi fruit at school. And we were able to eat dishes cooked with kiwi fruit.'

The athletes also visited a local sheep farm, where Crystal had a chance to shave the wool off a sheep. 'The sheep kept moving when we shaved it, even though the workers were holding them tight. It was the first time I'd done such work. It was very funny,' said Crystal, also 17.

Rex had a chance to carry out the duties of a shepherd and had to guide the sheep as they entered three different gates. 'There are marks on the sheep's head and I needed to guide them to enter the correct gate. The shepherd got it all correct in the demonstration, but we made some mistakes,' said Rex, 16.

Among the activities Kenneth liked most was being able to experience the feeling of free fall at a theme park. 'I felt like I was Superman there; I don't get this feeling from my sport.'

Kenneth was also nominated by the others to represent them and show friendliness to residents when visiting a tribal village after taking a boat cruise. The houses of the village are built with a roof top that is shaped like a head and a human face, while the outside looks as if it has two arms attached.

Kenneth was asked by the villagers to pick up a leaf placed on the ground and smile, which is considered by members of the tribe as proof that 'you are not their enemy'.

The athletes also met local students as part of a cultural exchange. They played a game of rugby with students at Otumoetai College. Juanita and Rex also went up on stage to give a wushu performance for their hosts.

'They were amazed when they saw me do the splits when warming up,' said Juanita, 15. 'My wushu display was a good chance to show them some Chinese culture.'

She performed the tai chi chuan display that she will perform at next week's selection for the All China Secondary Schools Students Games.

The Hong Kong students also visited the Millennium Institute of Sport & Health, in Auckland, which is the national training centre. Crystal saw the windsurfing sail used by her idol, Barbara Kendall, who won the Olympic gold medal at the 1992 Games in Barcelona. 'Lee Lai-shan [Hong Kong's Olympic gold medallist from the 1996 Atlanta Games] and Barbara are both my windsurfing role models. They are strong sailors and both of them won the Olympic gold medal. I took a lot of photos with her sail.'

Rex said he will never forget the beautiful scenery of New Zealand. 'I like the green areas in the country. Every night when I looked up, I always saw stars in the sky,' he said. Each of them has to write a 400-word essay in Chinese on the highlights of the trip.