The award’s inaugural recipient Hannah Hunt was a key member at the 2022 World Championships in France where the U21 team beat defending champs Germany. It’s the first time NZ has won the U21 Grade.
Hannah studies at EIT but plans to use Rachael’s financial support towards her canoe polo training camps where she’ll target another tilt at the Worlds in China in two years’ time.
“It’s amazing, I didn’t think there was a chance of me winning tonight, but it’s so cool to have someone like Rachael backing youth in sports across Hawke’s Bay.”
For Rachael Knight, helping young athletes like Hannah reach the top of their sport is personally rewarding.
“I’ve been sponsoring young athletes for six years now and I know how hard they work, the costs associated and what sacrifices they have to make, that I thought it was time I recognised them in an annual award.
“In New Zealand there’s not a lot of money available especially for up and coming athletes that haven’t reached the top to get national funding. In many cases their parents have given everything for these young athletes, so if I can help just a little bit, I’m pleased.”
By setting up a designated fund for the award through Hawke’s Bay Foundation, Rachael utilizes the growing income from the fund as prize money for the award recipients. It means as the fund generates income in perpetuity, prize money for the award grows and Rachael’s legacy is remembered long after she’s gone.
“Why wait until you put it in your will and you’re dead and buried and don’t get any enjoyment in seeing people excel. I love getting to know the athletes, going and supporting them compete, getting them round for dinner or playing a round of golf together. It’s great fun.”