North Shore Times
Feb 4, 2016
Sports-mad Sionann Murphy has to work harder than most 10 year olds just to get to the start line.
But when she is racing she isn't too far behind her peers.
Sionann has cerebral palsy with mild paralysis to her right side effecting her leg and arm. However the energetic youngster has a determination that sees her give everything a go.
"I know in myself that I can do it. I treat myself as a normal child, I forget about the disability," Sionann says.
The Unsworth Heights resident entered the Colgate Games, one of the biggest athletics meets in New Zealand, for the second time this year.
At the event for athletes aged between 7 and 14, Sionann set personal bests in the 100 metres and long jump.
It was the first time she had beaten an able-bodied athlete.
She finished ahead of one person on the track and jumped further than four people.
Coach Steve Erkkila says worldwide a very small percentage of athletes with cerebral palsy have beaten able-bodied athletes in competition.
Erkkila has helped modify Sionann's running style and her starting block, moves that have transformed her athletics results. He says she is a good student who has quickly picked up the adapted techniques.
Sionann, the daughter of two marathon runners, is now turning heads in the athletics community. "She is such an inspiration to everybody, I love training her," Erkkila says.
Erkkila believes Sionann has a bright sporting future.
New orthotics could further assist Sionann in her sporting endeavours and other areas of her life.
Sionann wears a leg splint day and night. However her current splints, that she has outgrown, are not suitable for running.
The Murphy's have had issues with ill-fitting splints imported from America. Now they are looking at DM Orthodics from England which are worn by members of the Team GB paralympic team and are recommended by Cerebral Palsy Sport in the United Kingdom, but they are not funded by the Ministry of Health and the cost can be prohibitive.
The orthodics would give Sionann more power and elevation in her movements. Mum Loraine says Sionann's success doesn't come without a struggle. "Other children see a normal child, but they don't see her hard work, frustration and the tears." This year will be a busy one for the new Carmel College student.
She is starting a twice daily, six-week rehabilitation programme following wrist surgery in late January to lengthen a tendon. But that won't slow her down.
Sionann will participate in the Weet-Bix Tryathlon again on April 3 in Whangaparaoa and later in the month will return to the Halberg Junior Disability Games, where she had great success last year and was named as best female athlete.
Support from fellow North Harbour Bays Athletics Club members means a lot to Sionann and the Murphy family.
Other girls from the club, who are becoming accomplished athletes themselves, have helped provide running spikes and throwing shoes. "They want to be part of the journey too," Loraine says.
Sionann mentors children in a similar situation to her own through a group set up by her physio. She encourages them to try different sports and have the confidence to compete.
February 4 2016