In the first of a five-part series, the Otago Daily Times names the 20 most inspiring people in the South for 2021.
Money, money, money – bingo.
Arguably, no one has worked harder to reach the top step than Paralympian javelin thrower Holly Robinson.
The 26-year-old had to settle for silver at the 2017 world championships when her British rival Hollie Arnold improved her effort to 42.41m with a throw of 43.02m in the women’s F46 category.
Robinson appeared to have cashed in gold the following year when she broke the world record with a throw of 43.32m at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast.
But no, Arnold put in a 44.43m throw 20 minutes later for the main prize.
Robinson continued to improve the distance she threw and reclaimed the world record with a 45.73m lift at the Australian Championships in April 2019.
But at the world championships in Dubai later that year, his nemesis won … again. Gold for Arnold and Robinson won the silver.
Seems familiar? It must have been a little demoralizing, and then Covid happened.
The Paralympics were postponed for a year and it would have been unsettling for Robinson and anyone who had planned their lives around the event.
Robinson found the resolve to move forward and was one of nine athletes to be selected for the official Tokyo Paralympic Games video game.
But there is something better than being immortalized as a digital avatar: a gold medal. And this time, Robinson would not be denied.
She threw her last throw at 40.99m to go from bronze to gold and then had to wait to see if Arnold could throw any further.
Not this time.
“I was just waiting for the last pitch,” Robinson said at the time.
“Once he’s gone, it’s just a moment you never forget.”
Lauren Dewhirst has always been eager to help people.
When she was younger, she had hoped to become a paramedic.
But after being diagnosed with a rare disability, Ms. Dewhirst took a new angle on this passion.
She has spent years of her life ensuring that people with disabilities have the best possible experience during their time at the University of Otago.
When Ms. Dewhirst was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos musculocontractual syndrome, the world started to make a little more sense.
She had struggled long before her diagnosis, but understanding her disability empowered her.
It also allowed him to channel his experiences into something positive.
Ms. Dewhirst has always been interested in volunteering and helping, but in 2019 she decided to lobby for people with disabilities.
Since then, she had become president of the Association of Students with Disabilities of Otago, a member of the National Association of Students with Disabilities and a representative of people with disabilities at the University of Otago.
Being an advocate for people with disabilities was good, but amplifying voices by working together resulted in a lot more, she said.
“It’s about trying to include voices with disabilities in the play.”
She was proud to be one of those voices and her efforts did not go unnoticed.
Ms. Dewhirst has been nominated as a finalist for the Attitude 2021 Awards, which recognize people for their contribution to the lives of people with disabilities.
She graduated from the University of Otago this year and wasn’t quite sure what the future had in store for her, but she knew she wanted to continue in the disability advocacy arena.
– Wyatt Ryder
Two years ago, Trinette Wilton, mother of Invercargill, suffered unimaginable loss when her 22-year-old daughter, Azalia, was murdered by her ex-partner, with whom she had a daughter.
Her life has never been the same since, but Ms. Winton has found a way to take her pain and grief and use it to educate and help others about domestic violence.
“All we’ve wanted to do, since the day Azalia passed away, is help people and that doesn’t happen to anyone else.
“We wouldn’t be silent and let this happen with another woman.”
With the help of her family, Ms. Wilton started a business, all of the proceeds of which were donated to domestic violence charities.
The Azalia Apparel is an online retail store that sells clothing with messages to raise awareness about this issue.
Ms. Wilton has also helped people in the community and across the country who approach her to talk about their own concerns about their relationship.
“This is a very encouraging situation and it motivates us to help these people. Many contact us saying that our story is really helping them.”
She hoped to be able to honor the life of her daughter and, therefore, of her granddaughter, who was brought up by her.
“Her death was not in vain. She did not die for nothing and we want people to be able to reach out and talk to us.
“There is no right way to handle this, there is no magic trick to survive this stuff, but we hope our story can help other women out of this kind of thing. relationships. “
– Luisa Girao
After being the only animal selected in the top 20 for 2021, cancer-detecting dog Levi could likely ask for a raise, or even renegotiate the terms of his leash.
Levi works for K9 Medical Detection New Zealand (K9MD) and can tell if bowel cancer is present in saline samples.
In June of this year, in a world first, the Dunedin-trained German Shepherd successfully completed the proof-of-concept stage of training by detecting bowel cancer samples in saline as low as 1% .
The proof-of-concept test had never been successfully performed before, and the Bowel Cancer Foundation Trust and K9MD said it was a major step towards detecting bowel cancer using urine samples.
It is believed that Levi’s nose will help reduce overcrowded waiting lists for early detection of bowel cancer here in New Zealand.
Right now, waiting lists for gut screening are exploding because they contain patients with bowel cancer, mixed in with those with inflammatory conditions and other bowel conditions.
The test will detect these specific bowel cancer patients earlier and ultimately save lives.
Levi’s training has now moved on to step two, which is to detect bowel cancer in patients’ urine samples.
While being selected as one of the 20 best people of the year meant little to Levi, his personal assistant (also known as K9MD’s CEO) Pauline Blomfield was elated.
“I feel both proud and humbled to have been selected.
“We are incredibly proud to be able to work on creating a simple diagnostic urine test for all New Zealanders, and we are also very proud to be able to do so here in Dunedin.
“Levi loves his toy very much. A real treat for him is to play with him and his trainer.
“I think we could renegotiate how much time they’ll spend playing with it.”
– John Lewis