Guy Harrison Photo Florence Charvin
Guy Harrison Photo Florence Charvin

[As published in Jan/Feb BayBuzz magazine.]

2024 is going to be a huge year for sport and there’s many talented local sports stars that will be at the forefront, many that are aiming for selection for the Paris Olympics to be held in July. 

Many sports fans will be glued to the television sets in July as we cheer on the New Zealand Olympic Team which we hope has some of our local athletes. 

Hawke’s Bay has an awesome track record when it comes to Olympic medal success. The likes of the Evers-Swindell twins Caroline and Georgina winning back-to-back gold medals in double sculls rowing at the Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 Games. 

At the last Olympics in Tokyo, Emma Twigg reached the pinnacle of rowing, winning gold at Tokyo, at her fourth Olympic Games attempt. 

Tom Macintosh rower

Emma is a strong medal chance again in 2024, along with fellow rower Tom Mackintosh, who won gold in the eights in Tokyo but is now going it alone in the single sculls. Others to keep a close watch on as they attempt to qualify are Kayaker Aimee Fisher, Para athlete Guy Harrison and 200m sprinter Georgia Hulls. 

Come on the Bay!

Harrison in contention for Para-Olympics in swimming 

Guy Harrison is a four-time winner of Sport Hawke’s Bay Disabled Sportsperson of the Year for running and golf – but it’s in the water that he’s hoping to make the Para Olympics in Paris in July. 

Guy has the determination to overcome adversity and succeed. At the age of 3 he suffered a seizure and died for almost 10 minutes. As a result, he was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, a neurological disease that can severely disable a person’s muscles. 

Recently, the 22 year old was forced to give up running due to the impact of the disease on his body, so he went in search of a new sport and challenge. “I had to give up running due to wear and tear on the body. Due to my disability I run on my toes and that was causing issues with my ankle, so it was a case of looking for another sport.” 

Having been an OK swimmer ‘relatively fast, but no technique’, he decided to head along to the Hawke’s Bay Regional Aquatic Centre and give swimming a crack, joining the Sun Devils masters squad initially and now part of the main competitive squad. 

He’s now set his sights on the tough challenge of qualifying for the Para Olympics, either as a S8 or S7 category swimmer. 

The difference is that as a S8 swimmer he needs to drop his current personal best in 100m freestyle from 1.08 down to 1.03 to have a chance of qualifying. Or convince officials that his disability warrants being moved to S7, which could improve his chances, albeit in the 50m freestyle. 

Under the watchful eye of Sun Devils coach Willie Benson, Guy says there is a chance he can make the Olympics. In February he will head to Melbourne to attempt to change his status from S8 to S7 as well as compete in a world series event. 

To move down a category he will spend three days being judged on three criteria: body characteristics and movement, how responsive the body is to pressure and stress, and observing his performance in the event. 

Once his classification is resolved he will return to Hawke’s Bay and attempt to qualify for the Olympics at the New Zealand Swimming Championship, which will be held in his home pool in April. 

“It’s a bit of a long shot to make Paris. I’ve only been swimming for 18 months, so if I don’t make it, I’ll set my sights on Los Angeles in 2028. 

In the meantime he’ll keep swimming with the older Masters crew, train a further five pool sessions a week with Sun Devils, as well as train with the region’s High Performance Sport NZ Hawke’s Bay Performance Pathways Project delivered by HB Fitness Centre. 

Golf is still a priority as well. He’s been named All Abilities Golfer of the Year by NZ Golf and remains driven to lower his current handicap of 9. 

Sprinters in the fast lane

Georgia Hulls

is on the NZ Olympic long list for the 200m sprints and will be competing at the Potts Classic on January 20 at the Mitre10 Sports Park. 

Her aim for the upcoming season is to get stronger and faster, her current personal best is 22.84 and she is currently ranked as the 26th fastest 200m sprinter in the world.

Georgia is in full training alongside new training partner Rosie Elliott and enjoying being injury free. 

She is planning to race more often in Europe after the domestic season, as well as defend her Oceania title in May with a performance that will get her to the Paris Olympics. 

To get to the Olympics she will have to run at or below her personal best consistently to have a chance of selection to the NZ Olympic team. 

Keep an eye out for Georgia and other national high performance athletes who will be based at the Sports Park in the week leading up to the Potts Classic.

Another sprinter to keep a close watch on is Rylan Noome. Rylan is a newcomer to sprinting and in just two seasons has, among other achievements, won the 200m sprint at the NZ Secondary Schools Athletics Championship and part of the 4×100 winning relay team and the New Zealand U18 100m and 200m titles.

In 2022 he represented NZ in Australia at the Oceania Championships and, as a 16-year-old, came third in the 200m and second as part of the 4x100m relay. Injury marred his 2023 season but he has already run two personal bests and is currently ranked No 1 in NZ for both the 100m and 200m U18.

Rylan’s goal this season is to qualify for the World U20 Track and Field Championships to be held in Lima, Peru.

Beck Allan Photo Supplied
Beck Allan Photo Supplied

Local Grom Surfer on the rise

Beck Allen is one of a bevy of up and coming local surfers benefitting from the re-emergence of the Hawke’s Bay Boardriders Club. 

Locally Beck, a 16 year old Lindisfarne College student, not only took out the club’s U16 title, but also the HB Open Men’s title, a significant achievement and Grom of the year. ‘Grom’ is a term within surfing attributed to young surfers on the rise. 

Beck, a right-foot-forward (natural stance) surfer, competed in the Billabong National Grom Series (three events) and secured a New Zealand ranking of 9th in the under 16 years division. 

Beck’s favourite local wave is Cray Bay, while he is also a regular at Te Awanga, or on the coast (Ocean Beach and Waimārama). Dad, John, is a native of Gisborne, where Beck and his grom mates are always up for a search mission. 

In 2024 Beck will again surf in the U16 age group, looking to improve his current national ranking as well as competing in the Quicksilver Backdoor King and Queen of the Point in Raglan in May. 

Beck is fortunate to have the support of Hustle Surf and Motor in Hastings and Darrin McCormack of DM Consult. 

Credit for the likes of Beck’s national performances – as well as others such as Open Women’s title holder Isla Prins and Dale Cromhout (2nd in Open Men’s) – can be attributed to the energy of a close-knit boardriders committee that was only re-established a few years ago.

Mackintosh aims for gold in single sculls

Rower Tom Macintosh will be looking to add another Olympic medal in Paris, albeit in another category, the single sculls.

Tom was a member of the New Zealand Rowing eights in Tokyo, winning the gold medal in a major upset and matching the feats of the 1972 men’s rowing eight. 

With several members of the Tokyo team retiring and the chances of qualifying difficult due to depth of talent, Tom has moved into the solo boat with early success. 

Tom has always had a passion for sculling in the single, as he spent some time training beside Mahé Drysdale when they were in the Rowing NZ Elite Summer-Squad together in 2020/21. 

Tom went on to be selected as the 2023 Single Sculler for World Rowing Cup III in Lucerne, Switzerland, and in an exceptional debut he claimed bronze in a highly competitive and fast field.

Since then Tom has competed in the US, in a long distance race – the Head of the Charles in Boston and the Philadelphia Gold Cup, a 750m race. 

Summer is all about training for Olympic Gold, a regime that will prepare him for New Zealand Rowing’s Olympic trials in late January and if all goes to plan with Olympic selection, he will then head to Europe with the NZ Rowing Squad for two World Cup events. 

Tom began rowing at Lindisfarne College and Hawke’s Bay Rowing Club in 2012 at the age of 15. He was named the 2021 Hawke’s Bay Senior Sportsperson of the Year after this exceptional Olympic performance (awarded while he was still in MIQ post-Olympics).

He is expected to be joined on the Olympic rowing team by Tokyo single sculls gold medallist Emma Twigg, who won the Hawke’s Bay Sports Person of the Year Award in 2023. She has won the award four times. 

Emma won silver at the World Championships in September 2023 and is a strong back-to-back gold medal contender at the Paris Olympics.

Also on the water and in with a shot of competing at the Olympics is kayaker

Aimee Fisher Photo Alphapix John Cowpland
Aimee Fisher Photo Alphapix John Cowpland

Aimee Fisher.

Aimee has been in the shadows of five time gold medalist Dame Lisa Carrington. Her best chance of going to the Olympics will be in the K2 500m.

All will hinge on one race in Sydney in February, alongside new partner Danielle McKenzie. The pair showed their potential with an eighth place at the world championships in August, after only teaming up five weeks before that regatta.

If they win the Oceania championships, essentially by beating Australia, Aimee could then also compete in K1, alongside Dame Lisa. 

Damon Harvey served 15 years on the board of Sport Hawke’s Bay, five years as chair, and continues to be involved in sport governance locally. A third-term Hastings District councillor, in his spare time he’s an action man – surfing, mountain biking, a gym bunny and a newcomer to water polo.


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