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In this issue, we profile paralympian Duane Kale and young skier Erika McLeod.

Duane Kale - a man with a vision
As a teenager, Duane Kale was a competitive swimmer and athlete, but he lacked the intense desire to succeed. But after an operation to remove a tumour on his spine left him partially paralysed, he became focussed on what he wanted to achieve.

"Having a clear vision is what's really important" says Duane. He set his goals and went on to exceed them, winning four gold medals, a silver and a bronze at the 1996 Paralympics at Atlanta.

Losing the use of his legs at 22, Duane began swimming again as a form of rehabilitation. He teamed up with his former coach and able-bodied swim squad in Hawkes Bay. "I wasn't treated any differently", says Duane, "and that's the way it should be. I was just one of the squad members."

Duane Kale

It was a win-win situation; Duane worked hard to achieve his goals, and his determination helped to spur on the able-bodied members of the squad. He has great respect for his coach, John Beaumont, whose encouragement empowered him to succeed.

Now retired from competitive swimming, Duane continues to be involved with the paralympic swim squad in an administrative role. He is currently helping to set qualifying standards for Sydney 2000, and will be involved in selecting and managing the team.

Duane is also one of the Hillary Commission's Junior Sport Ambassadors; this involves facilitating workshops at high schools with promising athletes and future leaders. The students learn about goal setting, developing visions, motivation, overcoming obstacles and identifying their personal styles and strengths.

One of the difficulties both able-bodied and disabled young people face is the fear of failure; this can sometimes stop them from taking risks, says Duane. Failures are something to learn from, and obstacles are there to be overcome.

When he speaks to young people about his achievements and experiences, Duane urges them to get out and give it a go, whatever it is they are into, and be confident that there will be support out there for them.

 

Ski Whiz!
The year ahead will be a juggling act for young ski champ Erika McLeod as she tries to balance a demanding seventh form year at St Cuthberts College and her skiing aspirations.

After three months training in Europe with the British women's ski team, Erika is back at home and looking forward to having as "normal" as possible a life for her last school year. Following the snow around the world, staying in one hotel after another and training with and racing against the world's top skiers is an exciting and challenging life - but for a 17 year-old it can sometimes be hard and lonely.

During the last three years, Erika has raced and trained in Canada, USA, Europe, Britain and Australia, with some impressive results. In September 1998, she was the runner-up in the New Zealand National Women's Open Championship after Claudia Reigler, and in May she was the first female and seventh overall in the Citizens Downhill Race, Jay Peak Canada - the first time a female had made it into the top ten.

She's also cleaned up at the Australasian/NZ Continental Cup Series, the Cardrona FIS Giant Slalom, and the New Zealand National Junior Championships. She's been named a Sunday Star Times Sportfit Future Champion two years running and is a member of the elite Milo National Ski Racing Academy.

Erika began skiing when she was only three years old. Her parents were ski patrollers at Whakapapa, and the family used to travel from South Kaipara Head, which is an hour north of Auckland, to Whakapapa in the centre of the North Island, every weekend (that's quite a drive!). Her two sisters are also keen skiers.

Erika says she had a great time with the British team, who are aged 15 to 20 and who are now friends for life, but she is clear about her decision to come home before the Northern Hemisphere season finished. Schoolwork will be her focus for the first part of 1999; she is studying English, Statistics, Classics, Phys Ed and Accounting at bursary level, and is determined to do well. A scholarship to study and ski at a university in the United States is one of her academic goals.

As for her skiing goals, Erika will race and train during the New Zealand winter, fitting it in around her school work. "I'm missing the snow already", says Erika, "my skiis are all lined up along the sitting room wall waiting for the snow to come."

Although disappointed that she hasn't been able to compete in the World Junior Championships (which she had qualified for) and other end of season races, she's confident that she will be able to pick up where she left off. She'd like to win the New Zealand Open again, and the Australasian title, and knows that she'll have to work hard to do that. But she's not afraid of hard work; one of her role models is Swedish skier Pernilla Wiberg, who at 29 is one of the oldest skiers on the World Cup circuit.

"I'd like to be still skiing at 29 - if I'm still enjoying it", says Erika.

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