One of the Waikato’s most promising school rowers has had to overcome some tough times.

The opportunity to win a boat for her school at Aon Maadi Regatta would mean the world to Hillcrest High’s Raetara David.

The Under 17 single sculler was born in Kiribati and moved to New Zealand with her parents when she was just 6 months old.

Her parents had to return to Kiribati last year to help with some family issues, leaving Raetara trying to balance her commitments to rowing, volleyball and schoolwork mostly by herself.

“I stayed with my auntie,” says Raetara. “They would do what they could to help me out but they also have their own commitments and their own work and stuff. I wasn't eating properly and my sleep schedule was really bad. I wasn't going well, running low on fuel.”

Her rowing definitely suffered.

With Mum and Dad home again, things are going much better and she’s been able to refocus on her rowing.

“She's very happy,” says Raima Turner-Abrahams, the teacher in charge of rowing at Hillcrest. “She's a different girl at the moment. For a Pacific Island girl, family is very important to them. That support wasn't there.

Coach Georgia Allen has been a big influence on Raetara’s comeback.

“She’s developed a great rapport with Georgia,” says Raima. “It's the best thing that's probably happened to her, that she's got someone who's been there and done all of that.

“Every row she's done I think she's improved on her last PB, so yeah, she's running around very happy, big smiles.”

Raetara won gold at the Aon Junior Regatta in the U17 single two weeks ago and was third in the A Final at Aon North Island Secondary Schools Championship last weekend.

“I saw her yesterday and they were obviously working on speed work,” says Raima. “That's what she needs to do because she came in on that 3rd rating 26! We were all looking at her and going, ‘Interesting!'"

Raetara was also part of Hillcrest’s Girls Under 18 Quad that won bronze at North Islands as well.

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RAETARA WITH HER MUM MARY AT KARAPIRO FOR AON JUNIOR REGATTA. HAVING HER PARENTS HOME AGAIN AFTER THEY HAD TO GO TO KIRIBATI LAST YEAR HAS BEEN A BIG BOOST FOR THE HILLCREST HIGH ROWER.

Now she’s on the charge to Maadi with no complications.

“She was actually supposed to go the Nationals for volleyball,” says Raima. “She approached Georgia and asked if she could row [instead], which meant we had to kick into gear at the school to get her out of volleyball. I was very excited that it came from her because the goal was not to pressure her.”

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Andy Hay

Andy Hay is a freelance producer, writer and rowing coach. He was cox of the world champion New Zealand eight of 1982 and '83. He is NZ Olympian #446. Got a story? andygohay1@gmail.com