Proud to Play NZ Ambassadors
Former Olympic Speed Skater & LGBT Youth Advocate
Blake began speed skating at the age of 10 in Christchurch after an injury from roller blading forced him to stop playing rugby union for a season. His brother introduced him to speed skating to keep him active. Blake quickly took to the sport and began spending as much time as he could in skates. In short track Blake had found not only has passion but something that he was good at.
In his career he has won five New Zealand national titles and broken numerous national records throughout his career. Skjellerup currently holds 3 New Zealand individual records in the 500, 1000, 1500 meter event, and 1 record in the 5000m men’s relay.
Blake came out as gay in an interview with Australian magazine DNA in May 2010, saying he had decided to wait until after the Vancouver Games to do so in order to focus on his performance and to avoid turning off potential sponsors. He is one of only a few openly gay Olympic athletes.
Blake also became an advocate for Pink Shirt Day, a nationwide campaign to fight bullying in New Zealand.
Born in Taupo and brought up in Waitahanui near Taupo, Wall has Ngāti Tūwharetoa and Waikato ancestry. She was named after her father’s cousin Louis, who died on the day she was born. Louisa Wall attended secondary school at Taupo-nui-a-Tia College. She earned qualifications from the Waikato Institute of Technology, the University of Waikato and Massey University; and worked in the health field.She identifies openly as lesbian.
In 1988 Wall became the youngest member of the “Young Internationals” netball squad to train under former New Zealand Captain and New Zealand Coach, Lyn Parker. In 1989 the selectors named her in theSilver Ferns netball team (New Zealand’s national representative netball team) at the age of 17. Wall also represented New Zealand in the Black Ferns women’s rugby team.
In May 2012, Louisa submitted a bill to legalise same-sex marriage in New Zealand to the private member’s bill ballot, and it was subsequently drawn from the ballot and introduced to Parliament in late July 2012. On 17 April 2013, the bill was passed into law, making New Zealand the 13th nation to allow same-sex marriage. At the third reading, Louisa gave a speech likening the passing of the bill to Treaty of Waitangi settlement acts previously passed by the New Zealand parliament. Louisa said the passing of the bill was like winning a “World Cup final”
Ironman Athlete, Author and Professional Presenter
Aaron got into triathlon at age 22 following a serious illness as a teenager that required major lung surgery and many years of recovery. As a result of his illness Aaron developed depression and everyday life was a struggle – he couldn’t even wear a bag on his back for many years. Some of the harshest news he was told was when his surgeon said that he would never be able to physically exert himself ever again.
Not one to watch sport from the couch, Aaron used his scarred body as motivation to turn his life around. Through sheer determination and gutsy self-belief, Aaron took on the sport of Ironman (3.8km swim, 180km cycle, 42.2km run) – starting from scratch.
Aaron is now a regular on the Ironman circuit, competing in triathlons around the world. His illness means he has limitations and will never be a podium finisher, but it his attitude and dedication that has turned heads worldwide. His mental strength is his strongest discipline.
Ten years on and Aaron is still very active in his sport, and through his generosity of using sport to help others through raising funds for charity, Aaron was announced as New Zealand’s Ambassador for the Beijing Olympics where he was New Zealand’s sole torchbearer, and he has been a previous finalist for Young New Zealander of the Year.
Aaron came out as gay in 2007 when he was 23 and speaks openly about being a proud and out athlete. Being strong and confident in who he is has helped him stay focussed on his goals, and the sporting community has continued to support him – regardless of his sexuality.
Aaron is also the author of the book Purpose, where he shares his story of overcoming adversity to achieve on the sporting world stage.