By DAVID HILL
Rangiora athlete Kyle Harpur has earned the praise of his coach after his impressive medal haul at the recent Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi.
Former international athletics coach Mene Mene came out of retirement to help Kyle prepare for the games and says he couldn’t be happier for him after Kyle won silver and bronze medals to go with the gold he won at the same event in 1987.
“I always encourage my athletes that a personal best is the goal, but the medal is a bonus,” Mene says.
“I was overjoyed when Nyree (Kyle’s mum) texted me to say he got the bronze in the first event.”
Kyle was the first New Zealander to compete in the games, winning bronze in the mini javelin. He followed it up with a silver in the shot put.
Kyle previously won gold in the shot put in 1987 and placed fourth in the long jump.
Mene says that while several of the athletes he has trained have won medals at international events, Kyle is the first to win a full set of gold, silver and bronze.
“A lot of my athletes broke records. But when you get a medal, no-one is going to take it away from you,”says Mene, who coached the athlete who broke his wife Sally’s New Zealand women’s javelin record.
He helped Kyle prepare for the 1987 games when he was just 14-years-old, but says the training was quite different this time round.
“When he was young I couldn’t give him the same exercises that my senior athletes did, but this time I could.
“It was about working through what was best suited for him. He was awesome to work with and I had confidence he would do well. And I knew if he performed above his training he would get a good result.”
In his final training session at Papanui High School, Mene says the focus was on Kyle’s psychological preparation.
“The school was having a lesson about gardening right next to our training circle and he was worried about the kids watching him, so I said to Kyle ‘use that as the audience in the stadium’.
“He just turned around and was awesome. It was probably one of the best training sessions because he was so focused.”
Mene says he also worked on Kyle’s sprinting, as he was the reserve for the New Zealand men’s 4×100 metre relay team.
Kyle says he enjoyed his time in Abu Dhabi, with the New Zealand team being welcomed at the airport by a haka performed by ex-pat Kiwis.
“It was amazing. I was blown away.”
While in Abu Dhabi, Kyle says he enjoyed a four-wheel-drive trip in the desert and a ride on a camel, which was less than co-operative.
“It wouldn’t sit, so I couldn’t get off.”