Black Ferns star Huriana Manuel's Olympic heartbreak

The rugby babe shares how the sport has changed her life

For retired Black Ferns star Huriana Manuel, the most dizzying high and devastating low of her stellar rugby career came on the very same day.
Despite winning two World Cups, the Celebrity Treasure Island contestant says her sporting highlight was captaining the New Zealand sevens team to the final of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
"To walk out on that field and see my mum and my husband Derek on the sidelines watching, I felt so connected to them," Huriana, 35, tells Woman's Day. "I couldn't believe we were playing in the final at the Olympics and it just gave me such strength. It was an amazing feeling. I get emotional just thinking about it."
What was extra-special about the moment was that her mum, Liza Mihinui, is also a former Black Fern, making them the first mother-daughter pair to play for the team.
Huriana adds, "Growing up, watching Mum play rugby was definitely an inspiration for me. She was awesome. I was the little girl yelling on the sideline and thinking my mum was a badass. To have her there supporting me was a dream come true. I can't even describe it – I'm going to tear up!"
With husband Derek and son Sachi
But just 80 minutes after the game started, the dream came crashing down. Despite winning a silver medal, Huriana admits her career low point "would have to be losing that final to Australia".
Her eyes still welling up with emotion, she adds, "I don't like to talk about that."
More happily, rugby was also what brought Huriana – who is of Ngāti Tūwharetoa and Ngāpuhi descent – together with her hubby Derek Carpenter, who played professionally
in Japan.
"We went to the same outdoor pursuits camp back in 2006," the athlete recalls. "All the next-big-thing players were there, like Zac Guilford, Israel Dagg and Derek, but I don't remember meeting him because there were 50 guys and only two of us girls!
"Then a couple of years later, we both played a sevens tournament and after the final, all the teams went out. Derek and I were sober drivers.
"He thought we locked eyes in the club, although we definitely didn't! But he did later ask me out on a date and, four years later, here we are!"
The pair now own an F45 gym in West Auckland and also have a three-year-old son named Sachi Wolf. Asked whether he's showing signs of following in their footsteps, Huriana smiles, "He loves running and he's full of energy, but we'll support him in whatever he wants to do.
"He is in the gym a lot of the time, and he often sees Derek and I working out. He even does burpees!"

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