New codes bolster AIMS Games records

Aiden Reinhard leads the charge as orienteering gets set to make its Zespri AIMS Games debut in September. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media.

Entries for September's Zespri AIMS Games have sky-rocketed, with a record 397 schools and nearly 13,000 athletes set to compete at Tauranga's annual intermediate-aged tournament.

The massive field features nearly 400 entries in orienteering and 67 in surfing, both new codes for 2024. 

Golf, swimming and squash have also boomed, while the big codes of basketball, netball, rugby and football continue to attract huge numbers.

A big drive by Parafed Bay of Plenty has also seen 31 athletes with disabilities register for the week-long festival from September 7-13, across swimming, indoor bowls, cross country and table tennis.

The 12,905 entries represents a 1200 increase from 2023, also up 21 schools from last year, leaving tournament director Kelly Schischka thrilled.

"What I love most is how disproportionately our diversity is growing - we're drawing in entries from new schools and new regions, and in codes that would have been considered minority sports in years gone by," she says.

"Having 397 entries in orienteering, for instance, is phenomenal from a new code and I'm so proud that we'll create a week of memories for students who wouldn't normally get this sort of experience."

The orienteering will split into two, with the rogaine discipline held at McLarens Falls Park, and the urban-based sprint discipline hosted by Tauranga's Historic Village. 

Surfing will light up the beach at Tay St for the first time, meanwhile, with Tauranga City Council's general manager for community services Barbara Dempsey delighted to see more of the city showcased.

"Tauranga is ideal for surfing and orienteering so it’s great to see such a strong response to the new codes," she says.

“The value of the Zespri AIMS Games extends far beyond sports so it’s no surprise they’re going from strength to strength - it's always a huge and exciting week for Tauranga.

“We want our young guests, from near and far, to feel a special sense of manaakitanga while they’re here, to feel well looked after, to enjoy being part of something special and go home buzzing."

Summer Pakulski, left, Isobel Ligtvoet, Sandy de Monchy, Aiden Reinhard and Kade Felton. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media.

Schools from the length and breadth of New Zealand will attend the tournament - which is a flagship event for Tauranga City Council - along with Pacific schools from Fiji and the Cook Islands.

Zespri is in its third year as naming rights partner, having come on board post-Covid when two years were lost to the global pandemic.

"To have such a huge jump in entries just shows how much the Zespri AIMS Games has become part of the New Zealand sporting and social landscape, and we're so proud to be involved again," says Zespri's head of global public affairs Michael Fox.

"The healthy habits and personal connections that are built during the tournament week will not only be with these young athletes for life but also have a lasting impact on the parents, family, volunteers, officials and supporters, who get to experience all that positivity and energy in one place for a special week."

The tournament is in its 21st year, after starting with 750 competitors in 2004, although this year will be the 19th edition because of the two years lost to Covid-19.


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