News & Updates
Jaden lives life in the fast lane
Rising New Zealand wheelchair racer Jaden Movold has battled serious adversity on his upwardly mobile athletics journey. Steve Landells speaks to the renaissance teen about his rich and full life and his need for speed.
As an ambassador, fundraiser, public speaker, disability rights advocate and deputy head boy of New Zealand’s largest school there is little doubt Jaden Movold is a hugely impressive young man.
Caring for others and a commitment to service are very much a key part of the 17-year-old’s personality yet there is another side to the young Aucklander and that is his desire for self-improvement as one of New Zealand’s most exciting wheelchair racers.
Jaden already holds a slew of national age-group records in a range of distances from 100m to 5000m and the Rangitoto College Year 13 student holds some big ambitions in the sport of athletics.
Born with spina bifida and having faced 31 major surgeries Jaden has encountered a heap of challenges throughout his life.
Yet with the support of mum, Lise, “my number one fan” and dad, Neil, Jaden’s “chief mechanic” he has been imbued with a sunny outlook on life.
“I’ve had to stay positive with all the challenges I’ve endured,” explains Jaden whose mum also survived cancer ten years ago. “But life has taught me to keep going, not dwell on the negatives and focus on all the great stuff in my life.
“As a person with a disability I’ve received a lot of help without which I couldn’t lead a successful life,” he explains. “What has emerged from that is a desire to help others and give back. It makes me happy to help others.”
Jaden – who lives on the North Shore – has certainly packed a lot into his life so far.
Aged seven Jaden helped raise $6,500 in a little over two weeks for StarJam. As part of his sterling effort, he won a dream trip to fly to Las Vegas where he met pop icon Justin Timberlake and he also got the opportunity to rap with Vanilla Ice.
His proud commitment to service has led to other accolades. In 2015 he won the North Harbour Club’s Junior AIMES Award for Service to the Community for his fundraising for a range of organisations and his ambassadorial work for Yes Disability and Achilles NZ.
In 2017 he received the New Zealand Youth Award for his community work and the following year took out the Youth Spirit Award at the annual Attitude Awards – which celebrates the inspirational achievements of New Zealanders with a disability.
Yet Jaden – who also serves on the Halberg Foundation Youth Council representing the voices of young disabled athletes throughout NZ – is not only a major player with his community work he has a long held passion for sport. In his younger days he competed in triathlon and wheelchair basketball and for five years featured as a competitive swimmer.
However, the trigger for his athletics journey began unusually at the CP Society Have a Go Day.
“People were doing an exercise work out with battling ropes, so I entered and absolutely blitzed the competition to win”, he recalls.
“It was on the back of this that an athletics coach, Steve O’Kane, found out, hunted me down and asked me to try out for athletics.”
Curious to find out more Jaden was happy to give it a go and Steve initially persuaded the teenager to try shot put. Yet after several months struggling to throw the shot within the sector lines reality dawned on the young athlete that his future may lie in an alternative event.
And it was while competing at the College Sport Auckland Athletics Championships he sought a fresh challenge.
“I saw a wheelchair racing competition and it was like, this looks cool – I’ll give this a try,” he explains. “I liked the speed of the event and entered a race in my day chair without the proper racing gloves. It was only after that first race I spotted a spare racing chair, climbed in and won the 100m and 400m. I thought this is for me.”
While the speed provided the initial thrill, over time Jaden has grown to also love the technical side to the sport as well as the tight-knit wheelchair racing community.
Yet it has not been a straight-forward road for Jaden and his coach, Steve.
“When I first met Steve he hardly knew anything about wheelchair racing and we had to connect with other coaches and other international representatives to find out more,” adds Jaden. “We have done our journey of learning together.”
Jaden has left no stone unturned in his pursuit of self-improvement. He has sought out leading wheelchair coach and former British and Canadian Paralympic head coach Peter Eriksson for advice with the Swede having an input into his training programme. The Auckland wheelchair racer has spoken regularly to Australian wheelchair legend and nine-time Paralympic champion Louise Sauvage to tap into her expertise and he has also received valued support from Athletics NZ.
More recently he has added South Auckland-based coach James Kuegler to his team – a move which has added a new dimension to his training and approach to the sport.
“James is awesome,” adds Jaden. “He loves technology and as there is so much technology in wheelchair racing this is very helpful. He sets my training programmes on Training Peaks. He has really helped me with the technical side and those finer details.”
Training between 80-90km a week the hard work is starting to pay dividends.
In his T54 classification, Jaden is the dominant performer in New Zealand. The 2020 Auckland Parafed Athlete of the Year has won a slew of medals on the national stage and as
the current U17 national record-holder in the 100m, 400m and 5000m and 400m U18 national T54 record-holder his pre-eminence on the domestic scene is clear.
Yet given the broad range of events in which he competes across – not uncommon in wheelchair racing – what is his favourite distance?
“I prefer the longer distances of 1500m and 5000m and I’ve also done a half-marathon (the virtual Waterfront Half Marathon in Auckland which he completed at AUT Millennium). Over the longer distances I don’t have to worry as much about staying in the lane lines and I love the strategy and tactical side of the endurance racing.”
Jaden’s next focus will be making his mark internationally.
In the New Year should Covid restrictions allow he hopes to target the GIO Summer Down Under Wheelchair Racing Series in Australia to dip his toe in the water for a higher class of competition.
Meanwhile, in the future he has more than half-an-eye on qualifying for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games followed by the longer-term aim of competing at the Los Angeles 2028 Paralympic Games.
In the near future, Jaden is honoured to be named one of three finalists in the Spirit of Attitude Award – which celebrates the unique journey and considerable challenges people with a disability have faced on their road to achieving their personal goals.
The Attitude Awards ceremony will take place in December in Christchurch and Jaden remarks on the “humongous shock” of being named a finalist and to be up against two other “phenomenal” finalists as “awesome”.
A regular public speaker who is willing to share his unique story – Jaden’s can-do attitude is an inspiration to many.
Yet for him his main target is to advance his exciting athletics career and see how far the sport can take him.
“My primary goal is as an athlete,” explains Jaden. “I have many interests but I would really like to see sport develop further – that would my ultimate goal.”
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