Nicola Kaiwai Ngati Porou Allround sporting exploits as a Year 12 student at Epsom Girls’ Grammar in 1994 almost defy belief.
Though known mainly for her tennis ability, which saw her rise as high as No 7 in New Zealand’s women’s singles and No 1 in the Under 18 age group, Kaiwai was also MVP of the EGGS water polo side, which was runner-up at the nationals and North Island champion. In football, she was part of the EGGS team that won the Auckland competition and then went on to finish runner-up in the nationals. In basketball, she had a place in the premier team which was runner-up in the Auckland championships.
And … in swimming, she was a member of the team which won the Auckland Secondary Schools 4x50m medley relay and second in the 4x50m freestyle.
“At school I won the tennis category, the allrounder category and the supreme award. I boarded at EGGS and have only fond memories of my time there. I recall we used to get up to quite a bit of mischief, but thanks to all the sports I was involved in I was always quite tired from trainings to stay up too late! I really loved school and the friendships that I made and thanks to Facebook I am able to keep in touch,” says Kaiwai.
The photo of her and 1994 ASB YSPOTY boys’ supreme award winner Dan Slater still takes pride of place at her parents’ home 21 years on.
At 14, Kaiwai had to choose between tennis and swimming at serious level. Ultimately tennis won out.
“I attended Wake Forest University in North Carolina on a full tennis scholarship for three years before I transferred and graduated from Pepperdine University in Malibu, Los Angeles.
“While at Wake Forest, our team won the ACC Championship and twice I earned All-ACC honours. We made three NCAA Championship appearances and I was an All-time Letterwinner from 1996-98. At Pepperdine, we also made an NCAA appearance and we won the WCC Championships. It’s pretty cool looking back knowing that I was a part of a team who won both the ACC and WCC Championships,” says Kaiwai.
A mainstay of the Royal Oak Caro Bowl club team, Kaiwai won a Caro Bowl as recently as 2012 but she is now based in Wellington and into her fourth year as the head of department for health and physical education at Queen Margaret College. She has taught for 14 years.
“It’s a rewarding job as I get to work with young people and help to guide and influence them as they develop their own skills and passions.”
Don’t think for one moment that she has hung up her racket, though. Just last summer she played for Thorndon in the Wellington premier inter-club competition. They won too.
Nicola was a member of the winning Kapi Mana team at the Tennis NZ Seniors Teams Event, held in Christchurch at Easter 2015
NZ Herald Campbell Burns