REMEMBER the name Finn Holden.
The 13-year-old Southland sports prodigy already has a resume most athletes would envy.
He has dominated the Southland junior tennis, table tennis and badminton scenes for over five years, overcoming significant health barriers along the way.
Finn hasn’t lost to any Southland tennis juniors in singles play since he was 7 and has won many age group titles.
He is also a force with the paddle, recently creating history by becoming the youngest player to win the Southland table tennis senior men’s singles, doubles and mixed doubles titles. He is now ranked in the top four in New Zealand for U13 boys.
His racquet sport skills don’t end there.
He has not lost a match in the mid-week Southland schools badminton competition in three seasons.
Finn was included in the wider Southland badminton squad, but was unable to play because of a clash with his other sports.
At school, he was named James Hargest’s top all-round student in Year 7 and last year was named best all-round sports boy in Year 8.
Finn has overcome his fair share of obstacles over the years, battling serious health and injury issues.
As a child, he was in hospital so often for a gastric reflux condition his name was permanently on a whiteboard in the children’s ward, his parents said.
Finn believes adversity has only made him stronger.
“I believe athletes who have injuries are mentally stronger and can achieve greater success because of it. If you have a setback you will be more inclined to try and move forward.
“Even while in pain you might as well try your hardest and see how far you can go,” he said.
During one Southland tennis match last year, Finn had chronic asthma and had to use his inhaler.
He was so sick and short of lung power after winning the final 6-0, 6-0, he was in hospital a few days later and off school for five weeks.
He was dealt another blow earlier this year dealing with a serious knee condition called Osgood-Schlatter Disease which causes significant pain and swelling.
His sports participation was disrupted as he tried to manage the disease.
“It’s generally getting better. I have had to do multiple exercises and stretches every night for the past six months.”
He has not been significantly troubled by the disease for the past few months, but said the test would come again when he returned to the tennis court next month.
Finn said table tennis was his strongest sport but he got the most enjoyment from tennis.
“I think it’s mentally a lot harder.”
He said his goal was to pursue his sporting careers.
– Jonathan Dine