Sports stars line up for Distinguished Alumni Awards

New Zealand sporting stars Kelly Brazier and Holly Robinson have a few things in common.

Both shone at the recent Commonwealth Games, Kelly grabbing gold in the Women’s Rugby Sevens, and Holly claiming silver in the F46 javelin.

Both studied Sports and Exercise-related programmes at Otago Polytechnic.

And both have been nominated for Otago Polytechnic’s 2018 Distinguished Alumni Awards, which also feature a couple of other highly accomplished sportspeople — Dunedin-based athletics coach Raylene Bates and New Zealand rugby sevens legend DJ Forbes.

Kelly was the hero in the New Zealand women's sevens team’s Commonwealth Games gold medal match, running 80 metres to score the winning try in extra time.

However, the fact she promptly turned attention to the defensive efforts of her team-mates speaks volumes about her selfless attitude.

Having played representative touch in summer and representative rugby in winter for much of her teens, Kelly was selected in the Otago NPC team in 2006 — at the age of 15.

At that stage, she’d already played a season for Alhambra Union’s premier women’s rugby team, for whom she set a New Zealand women’s club rugby record of 64 points in a game in 2009.

She made her first New Zealand team (the under-21 mixed touch side) when she was 14, and was selected for the New Zealand secondary schoolgirl’s touch team at 15, followed by  stint in the under-21 teams at 18 and 19.

After leaving Otago Girls High School, Kelly enrolled at Otago Polytechnic, where she gained a Certificate in High Performance in 2006, then a Diploma in Applied Sport and Exercise Leadership (Sports Management and Coaching) in 2010.

The leading points scorer at the 2010 Rugby World Cup, Kelly won the Otago Institute of Sport and Adventure Sportsperson of the Year award in 2009 and 2010.

Like Kelly, Holly has always been “sporty”. Her earliest memory is playing rugby with her twin brother in Hokitika when she was three years old.

Fast-forward two decades: the Otago Polytechnic Bachelor of Applied Science graduate stepped on to the Commonwealth Games medal dais after winning silver in the F46 javelin on the Gold Coast in early April.

Holly threw 43.32m with her first of six throws, breaking Hollie Arnold's (Wales) world record by 30cm. However, Arnold snatched gold (and the record) from Robinson with a final throw of 44.43m.

Robinson, who was born with a shortened left arm, “decided to start getting serious about something” at the age of 12. She focused on javelin throwing and, at 16, was offered a scholarship to train with Raylene Bates.

In 2012 she represented New Zealand at the London Paralympics. It was also Holly’s last year of school.

“I looked at the Bachelor of Applied Science (Physical Activity, Health and Wellness) degree at Otago Polytechnic.  It was a practical and applied qualification, and I liked that. It’s sort of the way I learn.”

Raylene Bates has also been nominated for an Otago Polytechnic Distinguished Alumni Award. She completed a Bachelor of Applied Management (Transformation and Change and Sports Management, 2011).

Employed fulltime by Athletics New Zealand, Raylene was named a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her service to athletics in the 2017 New Year Honours. She also won the Shining Light Award at the Attitude Awards last year, in recognition of her involvement with Paralympians and the work she does to enhance the lives of people with disabilities.

Likewise, DJ Forbes is in line for an Otago Polytechnic Distinguished Alumni Award.

DJ retired from playing last year, having contested his 11th World Rugby Sevens series, bringing to an end a career that included 153 tries in world series events, a Commonwealth Games gold medal (2010) and a World Cup title (2013).

Otago Polytechnic’s 2018 Distinguished Alumni Awards will be held at Manaaki, Harbour Tce, Dunedin, on 11 May.

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