Legendary Horouta paddler Kiwi Campbell has been named as a finalist for the Maori Sports Coach of The Year at the NZ Maori Sports Awards on Saturday, acknowledging her tireless efforts for waka ama, in this district, nationally and internationally.
By day Kiwi works full time as a student liaison administrator at EIT but before work and after work she is usually on the water.
As well as coaching the New Zealand Womens Elite team, the current world title holders, Kiwi coaches the open womens team, the J19 women, the J16 girls and the intermediate boys team for Horouta.
She also helps her husband Bruce coach four J16 boys teams.
Their two sons, Mairangi, 14, and Maia, 11, are among the paddlers they train, as are their nieces Cory and Kodi Campbell, all of them title holders.
Horouta Waka Ama Club president Walton Walker says her contribution to the club has been enormous.
“She is a big part of the reason why Horouta Waka Hoe has been national champion club for seven of the eight years the title has been awarded.
“She has nurtured new coaches and been involved with organising and running many waka ama training camps and workshops.
“In the sport of waka ama sprints Kiwi is a legend. In two official World Elite Sprint Championships (Australia in 2016 and Tahiti 2018) Kiwi won five of six gold medals in the elite women’s division not only as a paddler but as a coach of that team as well.
“Her national record with Kaiarahi Toa open women’s elite team is even more impressive, taking out nine years of national clean sweep titles with gold in the W6 500m; W6 1500m and W12 500m races — teams she has coached and paddled for. She has been a W1 champion and has coached many paddlers to national titles since she started coaching in 2002.”
Kiwi’s day starts before dawn. She is what she describes as a paddling coach, a vital part of the elite team she trains. Although at 37, she is the team’s oldest member, she pushes herself and the team hard.
If anything, keeping up with Kiwi is a challenge.
“Staying fit is pretty easy – I go to the gym and that’s not a chore – it’s actually some time for me to revitalise myself and most of the time we are with the kids we are actually on the water.”
Before paddling, she spends much time working out programmes to progress each team at different stages.
“We usually put a lot of effort into our individual races as well but this year we are easing back a bit with some of that and focussing on the development of our club.”
She takes enormous pride in some of the people she has coached.
“One of my girls, Gabrielle Wainohu, is a finalist in the Junior Sportswoman of the Year Award. “
Kiwi says she has come across many kids whose lives might have turned out quite differently if they had not become involved in waka ama.
“Some of the key elements and values they learn are transferable and they have been able to use these good values later on in the decisions they make in their lives.”
Kiwi comes up against some strong competition for the coach of the year title.
The other contenders are Alan Bunting, from the Rugby Sevens, Glen Wilson, squash, and Noeline Taurua from the Silver Ferns Netball team.
“I will still be happy if I don’t win,” she says. “I am rapt to be with the people I am up against – I could not be with a better calibre of people.”