Published Friday 17 January 2014

New Zealand athletes representing New Zealand at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Russia this February carry a piece of New Zealand with them.

Each athlete will wear a Ngāi Tahu Pounamu pounamu pendant, hand-carved from a single rock from New Zealand’s stunning West Coast, the land of Ngai Tahu.

The pendants were gifted this week to Chef de Mission Pete Wardell by Ngai Tahu master carvers at Waewae Pounamu in Hokitika.

Pounamu plays an important role in New Zealand Olympic Team culture, inspiring the athletes and linking them to each other, their land, and the people of Aotearoa.

Every Olympian for a decade has worn a pounamu pendant and in 2004 Ngāi Tahu, gifted a pounamu touchstone, or Mauri Stone, to the New Zealand Olympic Team. This touchstone accompanies the team to every Olympic Games and is a source of inspiration and pride. And in 2012, Ngāi Tahu Pounamu  was used for the 350 tahutahi/snowflake pendants carved by Jeff Mahuika (Ngāi Tahu – Ngāti Waewae, Ngāti Mahaki; Rangitane) of Hokitika, for the London Olympic team. It was the first time the rare tahutahi stone had been legally used..

Waewae Pounamu general manager, Francois Tumahai presented the medallions to Olympics representatives at a mihi whakatau and blessing held at Waewae Pounamu in Hokitika.

The sixty-eight pieces were created by fulltime Waewae Pounamu carvers Pierre Tumahai, Julie Nicholl and Anthony Coakley and have been named Te Taumata o Angitu – The Pinnacle of Success. The design incorporates a myriad of traditional and contemporary  narratives woven together to reflect the spirit of the 2014 New Zealand Olympic Winter team.

The base design reflects Aotearoa New Zealand’s highest point, Aoraki/Mount Cook, symbolizing where the athletes are from, who they represent and the magnitude of the challenge ahead. The stone chosen for the pendants – pounamu – reinforces attributes of strength, power and perseverance within the wearer. The orientation of the pendant, leading downwards to a point, reflects a traditional formation for meeting challenges. The notches on the edge of the design reflect the traditional niho taniwha design and the arduous route to success from the base of the mountain to the peak. Complementing the carving design is the bound cord, representing team cohesion as a core component of success.

NZOC representatives attending the event were delighted to have the chance to interact with the carvers and to learn more about the pendants and the Ngāi Tahu Pounamu Authentication Scheme.

The medallions will be presented to individual athletes attending the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia from February 7-23.