1493008600183 - Athletics and strong will help Matamata teen battle rare arthritis

Athletics and strong will help Matamata teen battle rare arthritis

A young athlete is breaking records, despite a rare childhood form of arthritis.

Oliver (Ollie) Morton-Farrelly, a Year Nine Matamata College student was diagnosed with enthesitis arthritis.

But Ollie is a fiercely competitive and determined young man.

In the 2016-2017 athletic season, which was his first Ollie broke five records and won five medals, including two golds, two silver and bronze.

But it’s been a rough road.

A downward spiral in his health three years ago brought the sporty young man to a standstill and literally to his knees.

Mum Helene Morton says Ollie’s condition started as a tummy ache, which steadily grew into severe joint pains.

“He started hobbling, like an old man.

“The colder it got, the worse he got.”

After weeks of missing school due to lethargy and sickness, his mum took him to the GP.

Over the course of a year, he was referred to WaiKids Paediatrics in Hamilton, and then on to Starship.

“We were frustrated,” said Helene. “He was missing school and was tired all the time.”

After numerous blood tests, x-rays and MRIs, a genetic test finally provided an answer.

Ollie has enthesitis arthritis, where the tendon hits the joint.

“It was a relief, when we knew what we were dealing with,” she said.

Dad Derek has ankylosing spondylitis, spinal arthritis.

Ollie manages the condition with medicine, but it has had an adverse effect on his gut.

He takes daily medication for the arthritis, pain relief and medicines to protect his gut.

He has three monthly tests to check his liver and kidney function.

When the weather is warm, Ollie is on form, but life can go downhill fast once winter and sickness sets in.

“I can sleep most of the day,” he said.

“It’s not cool. I wish I was normal.”

A meeting with coach Roy Williams at the Te Aroha Athletics Club, where his sister Emma trains, changed everything.

Williams is a former Commonwealth Games gold medallist in track and field decathlon.

He approached Ollie to ask why he wasn’t participating in the athletics events.

After a detailed explanation, Williams took the young boy on.

“He thought it was really sad,” said Ollie.

“He helped me with my technique in shot put.

“It was really cool someone cared and went out of their way to help me.”

Over a year with Williams, shot put started putting pressure on Ollie’s joints during winter training.

So, Ollie took on discuss too.

The switch helped equalise the joint pressure.

Williams has helped Ollie’s technique in shot put.

Rather than gliding, Ollie shuffles in the circle, which is less pressure on knee joints.

Ollie works with Williams two days a week, however Helene says training is all dependant on Ollie’s health.

Since the new year, Helene says Ollie has been achieving well with athletics.

He competed in the 100-metre relay the Waikato/BoP Relay champs in December.

He was fast and the coach wanted him in the final leg.

But afterwards, he was sore.

He hobbled to the tent, sat down and literally couldn’t get back up.

With shot put to go, Helene strapped his knees, to help take the pressure off them while standing.

He placed first.

Since January, Ollie has broken record after record in the discuss.

He broke the Matamata College record held since 1970, with his throw of 37.26m and the Matamata Athletics record of 24m, with his throw of 37.43.

In the North Island Colgate Games, Ollie placed 2nd, making him 3rd in New Zealand for shot put, for 12-year-olds.

Ollies last event at Easter, in the interprovincials in Masterton with the Waikato/BoP team was his best effort this year.

Ollie placed 1st in shot put and 3rd in discuss, from 90 participants in his age group.

He also came 11th in the 100m, with the fastest time for the Waikato/BoP.

Helene says it’s all attributed to Williams’ training and her son’s determination.

Ollie plans to continue training through winter, as he can, and come summer, will hopefully smash more records.

“It’s limited what I can do but I take every opportunity to be active,” he said.

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