5 May 2023

Griffith rallies to support Havana Charles' Olympics hurdling dream

| Oliver Jacques
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Havana Charles holding her medals

Havana Charles shows off her impressive medal collection. Photo: Supplied.

Nine-year-old Havana Charles is one of the fastest hurdlers in Australia for her age group. She’s been training four times a week for the past three years in pursuit of her ultimate goal, to represent Australia at the Brisbane Olympics 2032.

But to get there, she faces a huge obstacle – the cost of travelling to compete is prohibitively expensive, with a recent meet in Townsville setting the family back $4000.

Her auntie Karissa Undy has therefore stepped in, organising a fundraiser to raise money to sponsor Havana to travel to future competitions in Townsville and Bundaberg.

“She is determined and so proud of what she does,” mum Rebecca Charles said. “The amount of support she gets from home has made us so happy.”

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Havana was born and bred in Griffith, attending Wiradjuri Pre-school and Griffith North Public School. In 2020, her parents temporarily moved to the Gold Coast, in part to give their children the opportunity to excel at the sports they love.

Liz Clay kneeling next to Havana Charles

Havana Charles meets Olympian Liz Clay. Photo: Supplied.

Their daughter’s talent for athletics was discovered almost by accident.

“She really struggled at school and was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Her pediatrician said we needed to find her something outside of school to make her happy, so we got her in to athletics,” Rebecca said.

“The commitment she has shown is incredible. She exercises and runs all the time and her results have been amazing. She has broken a heap of records. She does a lot of different events, but she is best at the 200-metre sprint, long jump and hurdles. She’ll be 18 by the time the Olympics are here so has set her sights on that. She’s had so many opportunities here, she trains at the same venue as Olympic athletes Sally Pearson and Liz Clay and has got to meet them.

“It’s also helped her at school; she used to need a teacher’s aide, but doesn’t anymore.”

Havana said: “School is hard for me. I was always asking for help so I wanted to do something I was good at. Mum and Dad put me in athletics, and I just love it with all my heart. I want to be in the Olympics, I want to become the next hurdle champion of the world.”

Havana Charles running

Havana Charles competes in a Little Athletics event. Photo: Supplied.

Having qualified for the Little Athletics Queensland Championship, to be held in Townsville later this year, mum Rebecca is grateful for the support from her hometown. Her Dad, David Charles, who was born and bred in Griffith, has worked incredibly hard to pay for everything from private coaching to uniforms etc.

“You don’t understand how much money you need to spend … on things like shoes. She is nine and already taller than me. The amount of travelling we do – since COVID, flights have been so expensive.”

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Aunt Karissa has started what’s called a ‘200 club’ to help raise money to get Havana to Townsville and Bundaberg. Supporters buy a ticket for $20 and get a number on a board which is spun to determine winners of $1850 worth of prizes, including a smart TV and art designed by Karissa herself, through her venture KPU Creative.

“She wants to be the next Olympian, my darling does. She exercises and runs all the time and I’m here to support her,” Karissa said.

Support for Havana’s fundraiser can me made via Karissa Undy’s Facebook Page.

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