Published on August 25th, 2010 | by Alan Abrahamson0
Youth Games and the cousin you’d never met
SINGAPORE — They say the Olympics bring people together.
In this instance, literally.
Josh Hawkins is a 16-year-old hurdler from New Zealand. Devyn Hencil is a 15-year-old soccer player from Zimbabwe.
First cousins, they had never met.
Until they met here, at the first-ever Youth Olympic Games.
“Crazy,” Josh said.
“Happy, crazy, everything,” Devyn said.
“This is quite unique,” the New Zealand team leader, Robyn Wong, said. “I’ve never heard of this happening before. It’s fantastic that Josh is able to meet up with family. You think about the Olympics and the friendships you’re able to make — and now you can say the family you’d never been able to meet.”
Josh’s mom and Devyn’s mom are sisters. The sisters are from Zimbabwe. Josh’s dad is from New Zealand.
Josh has a younger sister and a younger brother. They live now in Auckland, on New Zealand’s north island.
Devyn has two younger sisters. They live in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital.
Josh’s mom is named Sharon, Devyn’s Rachel. About three weeks before the start of these Youth Games, the two sisters were chatting by e-mail.
Guess what? Rachel was saying. Devyn is going to Singapore, to play soccer at this Youth Games thing.
That’s funny, Sharon replied. Josh is going there, too, to run hurdles.
Devyn said Thursday, “When she told me, it was like, seriously?”
The two boys met up about four days into these Games, in the courtyard of the athletes’ village.
Devyn recognized Josh from a photo of his New Zealand cousins that’s up on a wall in his Harare home.
Josh recognized Devyn, too, from another family photo. But, he said with a laugh about Devyn, “His head looked bigger than it does in the picture!”
“I’ve never had family other than — well, family,” meaning his brother and sister and mom and dad, Josh said.
The Zimbabwe team finished sixth in the boys’ soccer tournament. Josh made it into the consolation final of the 110-meter hurdles; in that race, he finished fifth.
So no medal for either. But you know what they also say — when you’ve got your family, you’ve got everything.
“It’s new generations, new beginnings and that’s how life goes,” Sharon Hawkins was saying Thursday on the telephone from New Zealand.
“I was over the moon. I cried when I heard Joshua was at the same games. My heart felt like it was going to burst,” Rachel Hencil said over the phone from Zimbabwe.
“I’ve been phoning everyone,” she said. “I think everyone in Zimbabwe knows.”
Josh already stands an even six feet tall; Devyn is maybe 5-2. They laughed as they posed for pictures Thursday while relaxing in the village, telling their story to a reporter and to a Kiwi camera crew.
Only one word would do to describe it all, and Josh used it a lot Thursday. He kept saying, “Crazy.”