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Competitors near and far

Golden Shears patron Laurie Keats [centre] cuts the ribbon alongside Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson [left] and Trust House Ltd chairman Jock Kershaw [right]. PHOTO/PETE NIKOLAISON

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The Golden Shears have come a long way since the event first started, one of its founding patrons says.

Laurie Keats has been involved since before the competition began to take shape.

“There were competitions for everything else but shearing,” he said.

On Wednesday, he cut the ribbon alongside Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson, Golden Shears president Sam Saunders, and Trust House Ltd chairman Jock Kershaw, to officially launch the 60th Golden Shears competition.

Keats, now 86, said he had been a shearer all his life and won his first competition just shy of his 15th birthday.

He said people were surprised by how many people turned out to the first competition which had less than 300 competitors.

“They couldn’t believe the crowds that tried to get in and see the first competition.”

These days, people come from all over the world to compete.

Keats was particularly surprised by the record number of novices competing in this year’s competition.

“I’ve never seen so many people getting involved in wool handling and shearing.

“I’m surprised – with sheep numbers declining and the low price of wool.”

Woodville born and raised shearer Laura Bradley, 22, said shearing was in her blood.

“Mum was a wool-handler and dad was a shearer,” she said.

A full-time shearer, she picked up her first blades at the age of 10.

She started competing in the shearing section several years ago and would be competing this year in the senior category.

Last year, she decided to give wool-handling a go and entered the novice category.

“I was already here for shearing, so I thought why not give it a go.”

She said it was hard on the upper back and the large number of competitors this year would make it more difficult.

After placing first in her wool-handling heat on Wednesday, her advice to others was to “just give it a go”.

Naoki Fukushima from Hokkaidou Japan certainly seemed to take that advice to heart.

The 23-year-old also placed first in his wool-handling heat on Wednesday, despite having only learned skills a few days before.

He said he was “so excited” to be able to compete.

Asked if he would give it a go again, he gave a very enthusiastic and resounding, “yes”.

His coach Shun Oishi, who has represented Japan at three world championships, said the sport was not very big in Japan as there were only about 20,000 sheep across the country.

Born in Tokyo, he moved to New Zealand to learn more about the industry and to run his own training school.

Oishi runs a regular shearing course in Hokkaido.

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