The Attitude Awards recognise the achievements of Kiwis living with disability, from unsung heroes to world champions.
Finalists and their achievements will be celebrated in style with an evening filled with excitement and no doubt a lot of emotion, on 3 December, which is World Disability Day.
Westpac is sponsoring the award for Courage in Sport, for which there are 3 finalists. Let’s meet them and hear their stories.
Otis was born with Spina Bifida and started using a wheelchair when he was just 3. He knew from a young age that sport was something he was passionate about and something he was pretty good at too.
When Otis was 12 he gave sailing a go for the first time with Sailability Hawke’s Bay. It didn’t take long for him to learn the ropes and he quickly learnt to sail solo.
“If I had to pick the best thing about sailing it would be the freedom of being in the boat by myself and doing everything by myself,” says Otis.
His biggest achievement came in April this year when he sailed solo across the notorious Cook Strait. Otis faced 11 gruelling hours of challenging conditions with high winds in excess of 20 knots and swells over four metres cancelling ferries.
Exhausted and determined, he made it to shore near Mana Island just as the sun was setting and conditions had calmed. Only a few days later Otis asked his coach: “What are we doing next?’
It is this courageous – if a little wild – attitude that has seen Otis go from strength to strength.
“Sport has increased my confidence and my physical ability,” he says. “I love the social aspects as well as the fitness and I have met some amazing people.”
He’s currently working as a teacher aide at Taradale High School.
At 53, Selwyn Jenson is a true Kiwi bloke who loves his sport – so much so that not even a car crash and resulting paralysis could keep him on the side-lines.
It was tough to go from being an active farmer and shearer to being dependent on 4 caregivers a day, but only a year after the accident Selwyn was back playing rugby, this time with the Manawatu Wheelchair Rugby Association.
Then a friend gifted him a handcycle.
“After my first ride I thought ‘Man that’s a good workout’.”
What started as a quick pedal around the block has turned into a list of achievements almost as long as his rides.
Last November Selwyn completed a gruelling 40km of the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge. He’s also cycled in the Fielding Festival twice, the Tour-de-Beautiful, Rotorua’s Bike the Lake, Laskey’s Bush Cycle Tour, around Mt Taranaki and in Parafed Waikato’s 28km Activ8 ride at Hampton Downs, where he won gold.
After seeing what sport has done for his own confidence, Selwyn spends his time off the bike getting other people with disabilities active. He is a board member of Parafed Manawatu and treasurer for the Manawatu Wheelchair Rugby Association, recently helping the club to access $1,500 worth of sponsorship.
“I go along to schools with guys from the wheelchair rugby club and we demonstrate the game. We’re trying to promote awareness of disability.”
Cody was 15 when he was tackled and fell awkwardly in a game of rugby. He sustained a neck injury which caused tetraplegia, meaning he lost use of his legs and has limited movement in his hands.
After 5 months in rehabilitation, Cody started playing wheelchair rugby with the Canterbury Wheelchair Rugby Club in 2012.
Just two years later he was selected for the New Zealand Wheel Blacks wider training squad, and in March 2015 Cody pulled on a black jersey for the first time playing against Australia in the Ken Snowden Cup.
“Wheelchair rugby is nothing like rugby I used to play, but on the competitive side of things it’s exactly the same. You’re going out to win.”
Cody went to London in October to compete with the Wheel Blacks in the BT World Wheelchair Rugby Challenge 2015. The team then flew to Japan for the Wheelchair Rugby World Cup where they’ll be playing off for a spot in the 2016 Rio Paralympics.
Playing wheelchair rugby has delivered massive benefits to every other aspect of his life and he’d encourage other people with disabilities to get involved in sport.
“You’ve just got to get out and do it. Playing sport puts my mind at ease – even just being around other people. Don’t exclude yourself and stay focused on the future.”
Long white Cloud music video
Creating an anthem ahead of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games was the brainchild Attitude CEO & Founder Robyn Scott Vincent, and New Zealand rock royalty, Mike Chunn.
When Robyn bounced the idea of Mike, he already had the perfect song - an old school mate, Paul Fitzgerald, wrote Long White Cloud while living on the other side of the world. It’s a call to home - personifying New Zealand, the nation and its people.
It’s also been produced to drive public awareness of the 25% of New Zealand’s population who live with some form of disability.