The rhythm and rhyme in shot put

Ben Tuimaseve competes at the 2019 Oceania Athletics Championships in Townsville, Australia
Ben Tuimaseve competes at the 2019 Oceania Athletics Championships in Townsville, Australia

Tokyo 2020 shot put hopeful Ben Tuimaseve only took up the sport four years ago but is now looking to make New Zealand’s Paralympic team

Ben Tuimaseve admits he wasn’t a natural at sports like others.

Playing sports socially growing up, Tuimaseve’s decision to take up the sport of shot put in 2016 came from wanting to try something for himself.

“I was just at a point of my life where I had been doing things for other people and not myself for so long,” the New Zealand athlete who has cerebral palsy told Tokyo 2020.

“I’m not saying that was all a waste of time because I learned a lot but I wasn’t doing things ‘in the key of me’, for me, so I went as far away as I could from what I knew, on my own accord and had this great idea to try sports,” he laughed.

It was only at last year at the Oceania Athletics Championships in Townsville, Australia that he made his international shot put debut.

The fact that shot put is foreign to Tuimaseve is one reason he loves the sport because he’s not only been able to learn about himself but the sport itself. He describes it ‘as a jigsaw puzzle’ because as an athlete you need to figure out how to fit the pieces together and reflect that in the circle when going in for a throw.

While that sounds simple, it wasn’t easy especially coming into a brand new sport.

“At the start, I was just trying to jam any pieces together but now I believe we’re starting to figure out what the pieces are and trying to put them together where they fit, not just anywhere and everywhere,” he laughed.

And the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 also offers an extended training period to Tuimaseve, who earlier this year suffered an injury setback. At the moment he’s looking to compete and try to qualify for the Paralympic Games from now through to March 2021.

“We’ve been training hard most of the year and the thought that making a Paralympic team is pretty exciting,” Tuimaseve said.

Competing at the Athletics New Zealand Track and Field Championships
Competing at the Athletics New Zealand Track and Field Championships
Provided by Ben Tuimaseve

The music within

When you think about shot put, there is one thing you might now expect... and that is music’s connection to the field event.

As Tuimaseve explains there is a strong connection between the feel, rhythm, and timing which connect both music and shot put. Although, there are times when the two go in off in completely different tangents and despite being musically inclined, sometimes the compatibility between shot put and music can be difficult.

“I’m trying to build a decent foundation to throw and then I’ll try and apply some music along the way. The biggest difference is if you go off the beat in music, you have time and space to recover but in shot put, there is none,” he said.

“I have to be careful of how much I apply it to shot put, because shot put involves putting my body into positions that are foreign to me and that’s not musical at all,” Tuimaseve laughed.

When asked what he would have on his playlist before throwing at the Paralympics the likes of Kanye West’s Family Business - a song that reminds him about his family, CeCe Peniston’s I’m In The Mood - a favourite to get him in a good mood and UGK Ft Outkast’s Int’l Players Anthem, would be on the list.

Ben Tuimaseve dancing up a storm
Ben Tuimaseve dancing up a storm
Provided by Ben Tuimaseve

Family having your back

Tuimaseve, who hails from South Auckland which has a large Pacific Islanders community, comes from a family-oriented upbringing where family events were a regular occurrence.

While the Para athlete recalls being the only one with an impairment in his family – something he admits was difficult and interesting to navigate since he was alone in that experience – it’s given him a lot of perspective.

“At the end of the day, I’m grateful for it,” he said.

When Tuimaseve came into Para athletics he found it to be quite expensive to pursue especially if he wanted to have a chance of standing on the podium. It has led the F37 shot put athlete to sacrifice fulltime employment amongst an abundance of other things to follow his dream.

But his family, who have fully supported him in his sporting endeavour, have been by his side the whole time – something that has been a blessing for Tuimaseve.

“For my family to say ‘go and do it, we got you’ is a blessing. I understood the phrase ‘I got your back’ because for that to happen, you have to walk forward without fear and look forward so they can be behind you and they are,” he explained.

The Para athlete also says that there have been many others who have also been supportive and kind to him since taking up the sport.

“I find some peace in the fact it’s because they can see I work and train hard,” he said.

“Thank you to everyone, I’m very grateful and appreciate it all! I’m the brokest I’ve ever been but the richest I’ve ever been, and it will count for something.”

Provided by Ben Tuimaseve

Living life to the fullest

There are two motto’s Tuimaseve lives by:

Difference is the challenge but ultimately the blessing

You never know when you your time’s up

With his attitude towards life, and with his determination to being the best version on himself and a free-spirited personality, Tuimaseve has the makings of a role model for the next generation of athletes. However, Tuimaseve doesn’t see himself as a role model or inspiration, he’s just being who he is.

But being of Pacific Island decent and having the opportunity to represent the community through sport is important to him.

“To have any chance of being be the best, you have to make healthier choices and I hope I can encourage someone to do the same.”

“I am no saint and still learning but I have made a lot of healthier choices that can transfer from sport into life. And for young Pacific Islanders, disabled or not, I hope I can add to them believing they can be themselves.”

And if what he is doing along the way, whether they are Pacific Islander or not, then that’s pretty cool.

“I don’t try to inspire but I just work hard, be honest and accountable all while trying to remain myself. If I happen to inspire you, please let me know so I can add ‘Inspirationer’ to my CV,” he laughed.

So, what’s next for the Kiwi shot put athlete? Well, Tokyo 2020 is definitely in his sights and if he does reach the podium at the Paralympic Games next summer, it would be an amazing achievement.

“It would be the best - it’s the ultimate goal because it’s the pinnacle of the sport,” Tuimaseve said, “It would be something you own, can see and hold as a physical representation of all your hard work, sacrifice and the whole journey and experience.”

And don’t be surprised if he busts out a few dance moves on the podium.