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Sport and fitness bring endless opportunities

1 September 2017 – Born with spina bifida, Maioro Barton has always been keen on physical fitness and activity. With five siblings who are also into sport, it’s fortunate they live only a stone’s throw from a fitness centre that sponsors him and where he spends a lot of time lifting weights and working out.

Maioro, the second youngest of six children, started playing wheelchair rugby at intermediate school for the Waikato Men’s team until he changed his sport to focus on his goal of representing New Zealand in sport.

“I was told if I wanted to represent New Zealand I would have to change my sport because I wasn’t disabled enough to play international wheelchair rugby.

“So I gave wheelchair basketball a go. After a year of training and playing for the Waikato team, I was 13 when I was selected for the New Zealand U20 Wheelchair Basketball team and 14 when I played my first game for New Zealand.”

At Hillcrest High School Maioro was part of the Physical Assistant Centre (PAC), a base for students with physical disabilities to have accessible toilets, kitchen, equipment, teacher aids, physio and occupational therapists. Each whole school athletics day, students from the centre held their own athletics competition and he loved it.

“One year after the school athletics day I approached Kerryn O’Brien who was in charge of the PAC athletics competition and said I’d like to be involved in athletics outside school. She paired me up with then Paralympics Athletics coach Bev Savage at Frankton Athletics and we trained for many years together.”

In 2015 Maioro competed in Australia at its Junior Nationals and broke all its records for shot put, discus and javelin, qualifying him to compete at the World Junior Disabled Athletics Championships in Dublin. He was 19, competing in the aged 20-23 category – he came away with a fourth for discus and javelin, and second in shot put.

In 2016 Maioro wanted a new challenge and his personal trainer encouraged him to compete in wheelchair body building in the NZ Wheelchair Bodybuilding Federation.

“It was one of the hardest things psychologically I’ve put myself through. I prepared hard with training and dieting for 19 weeks. I had also just recovered from an operation.”

With the all-clear from Waikato Hospital he was straight into training at Cambridge Fitness Centre under his personal trainer David Robson, also president of the NZ Wheelchair Bodybuilding Federation.

Because of spina bifida, Maioro was wary of straining his back and damaging the titanium rods in his back with training, but his back muscles turned out to be his strongest asset.

What added to the stress was featuring in a fitness magazine – and knowing it would be followed up with another story after the competition. “I didn’t want them to publish that I came anything other than first, so I trained hard and was committed!”

It paid off – he won his first competition and the People’s Choice.

With a passion for international travel from competitions overseas, he’s holidayed in Hawaii, Arizona, LA, Rarotonga, Hong Kong, London, and in 2017, he joined a group of Kiwi basketball fans to watch NBA games in Oklahoma City in the US and see Kiwi Steven Adams play.

Maioro studied Sport, Recreation and Exercise Science at Wintec and has been working part-time in the recreation industry for the past 12 years. A sport programme facilitator and public speaker, he recently shared his story with 430 year nine students at Waikato Institute of Sport and Leisure’s young leaders day. He’s also part of Rebel Sport’s ‘What’s Your Why’ campaign commercial with All Black Malakai Fekitoa, and has his own ‘What’s Your Why?’ on Rebel Sport’s YouTube channel.

“I’m now looking for full-time employment using my qualifications. My ultimate goal in life is to get married, have children and build my own house.”

Maioro is a programme coordinator in the Community Services team at Life Unlimited (now known as Your Way | Kia Roha). He’s responsible for delivering the popular Sport Opportunity After School programme which provides opportunities for young people with disabilities, aged 5-21 years old, to get involved with sport.

Originally printed in Parent to Parent’s September 2017 magazine.

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