Kiwi kiteboarder revives Olympics bid after years of tough luck

Source: 1News

Ten New Zealand Olympic hopefuls have received a sizeable financial boost to help them achieve their dreams of reaching the Paris 2024 Games.

Among the beneficiaries of the IOC's Olympic Solidarity Fund – a NZ$21,500 package delivered over the next 18 months - is kiteboarder Justina Kitchen who has revived her Games bid after years of tough luck and life changes.

The 32-year-old was an exciting youth windsurfing prospect but three shoulder reconstructions before the age of 20 derailed those dreams.

"I decided to go to uni, get married, have kids - life moved on,” Kitchen said.

“And then for fun, I learned to kite foil."

She started doing well nationally, and with kiteboarding announced as a new Olympic event, decided to give it a crack.

"I borrowed a foil, borrowed some kites, my dad had a friend in Europe who had a campervan and used that and went to the worlds and got 10th,” she said.

“I thought, ‘my goodness, I'm still in the game’!"

A game that's now getting serious with Kitchen training in the gym or on the water in from 9am to 3pm daily in between dropping off and picking up her kids from school.

Coach Matt Thomas said Kitchen has earned her shot at Paris through sheer determination.

"It's pure graft,” Thomas said.

“It just shows what you can do when you focus and put your mind to something."

It was at her kids' age that Kitchen saw dad Rex Sellers winning gold with Chris Timms in sailing's tornado class at the 1984 games and silver four years later, adding to her drive to make the final cut.

"I can remember being a pre-schooler, three or four years old going to these events with my dad and thinking, 'oh my gosh, I'd love to be doing that when I grow up’."

In two years’ time, Kitchen’s kids could be thinking the exact same thing.