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Silver medal for Baker

There were tears of joy and pride in the tiny settlement of Papawai yesterday, as a silver glow descended on Wairarapa.
Shakira Baker — former Greytown School and Wairarapa College student — was awarded a silver medal at the Rio Olympics for her part in the New Zealand women’s sevens rugby team.
The ‘Sevens Sisters’ were beaten by Australia 24-17 in the gold medal match at the Brazil games, and back home her family were watching in Papawai, struggling to deal with their emotions.
Father Bucky Fidow said he, Shakira’s mother Simone Baker, and her grandmother Di Baker had tears rolling down their cheeks as Baker ran onto the field.
“We all had tears, we were just so proud of her.”
He said the medal winning performance was not just a celebration to be enjoyed by the family, but by the people of Papawai, and the whole of Wairarapa who have stood behind Shakira right from the outset.
“We want to thank the whole community.”
The family of the medal winner were hugely proud of Baker when she was selected to go to Rio and to have taken that through to be part of a silver medal performance by the sevens team was something “that is still sinking in”.
Baker first made her mark in rugby as a member of the Eketahuna 15-a-side team which contested the Wellington and Manawatu competitions and her outstanding form as a midfield back saw her selected for Wellington as a 16-year-old.
A two-time winner of the supreme champion award at the Wairarapa Maori sports awards, her grandfather was the late John Baker of Papawai, the doyen of a family whose sporting record reads like a Who’s Who of New Zealand sport.
Included on the family’s sporting tree are hockey reps Dee Taylor, Ngahina Gillies and Mahe Baker, All Black trialists Carlos Baker and Charlie Kaka, national secondary schools rep Cyrus Baker, and current New Zealand men’s sevens rep Gillies Kaka.
Also watching yesterday was Greytown School teacher Sue Lyford, who taught Baker at the school.
She remembered Baker as a “very athletic” kid.
“Absolutely, she was into everything, always playing.”
She had followed Baker’s progress from when she left school all the way through to yesterday’s medal performance.
“I was proud of her before she got onto the field, but the fact she got out there was just fantastic.
“She’s so cool and she’s done so well.
“I’m just so chuffed.”
Mrs Lyford said she would be telling her current pupils about Baker’s exploits, to show them what they could achieve.
Shakira Baker made her debut for the Black Ferns in 2011 in England and she also played her first game for the national sevens team in the same season.
She was out of action in 2013 because of a heart problem and in 2014 a knee injury also kept her out of action for some time.
However, she has bounced back into full fitness since then and has been a regular in the New Zealand teams over the past couple of seasons.

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