Rotorua waka ama veteran grabs national medal haul


A veteran Rotorua waka ama competitor has proven age is just a number.

Maylene Papuni, 54, has added to her career medal haul with a gold, silver and bronze at the National Waka Ama Championships held at Lake Karapiro.

Papuni, who represented New Zealand at the Waka Ama World Championships in Tahiti in 2018, paddled to a silver medal in the individual women's final and bronze with her Rotorua club Te Au Rere Waka.

She was then selected to race in the national W12's 500m final for Te Puku O Te ika, winning gold. The Te Puku O Te ika (the stomach of the fish) region includes Huntly, Tauranga, Ōpōtiki and across to Taranaki.

Papuni, a local business owner of Aramex Rotorua, admits she was the "matriarch" of the team at 54 years of age, with 10 team members aged between 16 to19 years and the other team member aged 40.

"I've been busy training over the last three months, in what's also the busiest time of the year for the business, delivering parcels across the region, but I always had my waka on the roof racks and I'd head off at 5.30pm to train," she said.

"It's awesome to be able to continue to compete. When I qualified for Te Puku O Te Ika, Regional team our first training was on the day.

"I gave everyone our race strategy on the way to the start line and to go hard and strong for 500m and that's what we did.

"It was awesome to come back to work at the Aramex Rotorua depot and celebrate with the team and show them that you can work hard but also play hard too.