Rural spirit shines bright as Olympians star on day one

PALMERSTON NORTH, New Zealand (11th March, 2017) – The third annual Hilux New Zealand Rural Games began on The Square, Palmerston North today with Olympians Dame Valerie Adams and Mahé Drysdale making guest appearances in an unfamiliar sport.

The double gold medallists swapped shot puts and rowing oars for Red Bands as they competed as wild card entries in the New Zealand Gumboot Throwing Championship in association with Skellerup.

Mahé finished an uncharacteristic last in the men’s competition that was won by James Kellow of Whanganui with a throw of 42.24m. James just edged reigning champion, Olympic decathlete Brent Newdick into second place but couldn’t take Brent’s national record of 44.97m set in 2015.

Dame Valerie took the women’s title comfortably with a throw of 34.38m, beating Bulls local Charlotte Symes into second place by five metres. However, she couldn’t take the national record of 34.45m set at the 2016 Games by Kristin Churchward from Taihape who finished third today. The golden girl of NZ athletics also mixed with spectators and took part in the cowpat tossing contest.

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Dame Valerie Adams prepares her ‘all natural’ shot put in the cowpat toss (credit – Neco Wieringa)

The day began with early rain and the roar of borers in the NZ Speed Fencing Championship, presented by Fencing Contractors Association of NZ in association with Wiremark and Stockade. After two consecutive wins, defending champ Matt Jones from Levin had to settle for second place behind Hawke’s Bay’s Tony Bouskill.

As the weather dried out, attention turned to the Highland Games ‘heavies’ contest. This titanic trans-Tasman battle was won by the team from New Zealand with Reuben de Jong claiming a ‘threepeat’ individual victory. The Auckland strongman remains undefeated at every Hilux New Zealand Rural Games to date.

Kiwis took on the Aussies again straight after with the ANZAXE Trans-Tasman Wood Chopping Championship and again the Kiwis came out on top. Taranaki axemen Shane Jordan retained the overall title from Australian Kody Steers in second.

Jordan’s younger brother Jack took third place the day after winning Young NZ Rural Sportsperson of the Year at the Norwood New Zealand Rural Sports Awards.

A host of fun have-a-go contests for all ages throughout the day included Fonterra Speed Milking, Toyota Haybale Stacking, cowpat tossing in association with Federated Farmers and kids’ tree climbing sessions run by the NZ Arboricultural Association.

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Pedal tractor racing at Kids ‘n Country (credit – Neco Wieringa)

The Hilux New Zealand Rural Games continue tomorrow (Sunday) with events including the NZ Speed Tree Climbing Trans-Tasman Championship, sheep dog trials, the NZ Coal Shovelling Championship and an attempt on the world egg throwing and catching record featuring top sportspeople from cricket, athletics, softball and baseball.

The closing event will be NZ Speed Shear Championship featuring the country’s best shearers including current and previous world champions, Johnny Kirkpatrick and Rowland Smith.