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Waka ama world champion Vesna Radonich has long been known as Gisborne’s golden girl.

However, few people know that the international team and solo events waka ama champion, who has won a swag of gold medals at New Zealand and World Waka Ama Sprints, has overcome drug and alcohol addiction, depression and hearing loss from birth.

It’s a testimony to the 38-year-old Aotearoa Scholarship Trust (AST) recipient’s perseverance and an example to others that life’s challenges can be overcome.

Her late mother Daphne Radonich would never let her give up, Vesna says.

“She was my rock . . . my greatest support. The light I needed in my darkest times.”

Of Ngāti Maniapoto and Croatian descent, Vesna was one of 25 AST scholarship recipients at a special awards ceremony at Mangakōtuktuku last week.

A total of $86,000 scholarships were awarded this year.

Vesna received $2500 to assist with her Māori Governance and Leadership diploma studies she is undertaking at Whirikoka this year.

Thankfully, Vesna says the Diploma in Māori Governance and Leadership has given her a better understanding about her new role as the chairperson for the Opōtiki to Hastings regional waka ama board - Te Uranga o Te Rā.

“When I first stepped into the job it was sink or swim as I tried to take it all in but now thanks to my wānanga course I have a really good grasp on our board’s structure and vision and how we can move forward.”

Vesna aims to race in the world sprints at Australia next year and then plans to take a break from competition to focus on family time, her new job and studies.

ATS is a subsidiary of TWoA that was established in 2010 and since 2011 has presented a combined total value of $427,000 to 86 individuals and groups.

The special event also paid tribute to some Te Wānanga o Aotearoa icons, through the presentation of memorial awards to Dr Diggeress Te Kanawa, Mike Watson, Rewi Panapa and Tane Taylor.

For more information on our Diploma in Māori Governance and Leadership click here or give us a call on 0800 355 553


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Published On: 14 July 2015

Article By: Alice Te Puni



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