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Coach Jerome Kaino: Bernadine Oliver-Kerby’s secret weapon

Why TV presenter Bernadine Oliver-Kerby has teamed up with All Black Jerome Kaino.

It is, perhaps, the most unlikely of friendships. She’s a gorgeous TVNZ presenter with a busy life as a working mum of two; he’s a strapping All Blacks superstar – who’s just become the TV star’s personal fitness mentor. The pairing of Bernadine Oliver-Kerby and Jerome Kaino came about as the newsreader began preparations for this week’s Round the Bays event.

Still recovering from knee surgery, which involved removing a cyst and repairing cartilage, Bernadine is now also facing surgery on her other knee – the result of her love of sports, including years playing netball, water-skiing and skiing.

Those “dickey” knees will make the 8km walk around Auckland’s waterfront that much harder. “Jerome’s my mentor, he’ll be helping me out with the mental side of it,” says Bernadine, who was a sports reporter for many years before turning to news.

As she stands on her tiptoes to make sure she gets in the same photo as 193m-tall Jerome, petite Bernadine says it helps that the star flanker is also facing injury. He’s currently sidelined from the Blues Super Rugby team with a shoulder injury, giving him time to work on his first mentoring role. It is, he says, a challenge different to anything he has done before.

“With rugby there are 14 other guys you’ve got to encourage but this is just one person,” laughs the newly married father of two. The friends are determined Bernadine will finish this year’s race despite her injuries, because both are committed to the Child Cancer Foundation, which benefits from the event.

Jerome’s seven-year-old cousin Ezra died of cancer in 2010 and Bernadine is a longtime supporter of the charity. “No amount of pain that I’ll encounter on the eight kilometres will even make a dent in the pain and suffering those wee kiddies endure on a daily basis,” says Bernadine, who has two young daughters Maisey (4) and Scarlett (2). “I will jog, walk or even crawl on my hands and knees to make it to the finish.”

Jerome’s life has been all about training and sport since his family moved to New Zealand from American Samoa. He was an All Black by the age of 23 and last year, after scoring four tries at the Rugby World Cup, was a nominee for the IRB International Player of the Year award.

His training tips and tricks for Bernadine include “taking in the scenery” to get through the pain. “I’m not a big fan of running,” admits Bernadine, who says her training so far has included chasing her two active young daughters. “Walking is fine, so long as there’s a bakery at the end of the road.”

“Maybe I’ll put a donut stand at the finish line to get her over it,” quips Jerome. When he’s not training his new protégé, Jerome is known as one of the All Blacks’ most prolific tweeters. He’s quick to tell Bernadine that he has almost 27,000 followers and that she – who has yet to join Twitter – may need to set up an account so he can tweet his training tips.

“It’s important not to get too angry when the young guns pass you (in the race),” Jerome tells Bernadine as the two prepare for their first session together. “Oh, it’s gonna happen, it’ll be like when you’re on a skifield and a five-year-old whizzes past you backwards without poles,” Bernadine says. “But this is one of those things where you put the competitive edge aside and just do it.”

For both Bernadine and Jerome, lending their support to such a worthy cause is the most important thing. “When you have kiddies, it changes your outlook on life,” says Bernadine. “You never take your kids’ health for granted.”

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