She’s still got the fire
Hawaii's first female firefighter excels at a world-class sports event
Hawaii's first female firefighter has returned from the 2007 World Police and Fire Games in Adelaide, South Australia, with a stash of medals.
Now retired, Kristine Oyama from Makawao, Maui, was one of 21 law enforcement and firefighter competitors from Hawaii participating with the U.S. team.
Oyama returned home from Down Under with the gold medal for the Grand Masters Singles Tennis and a silver for the Grand Master Stair Race (sprinting up 30 floors of stairs; she missed out on gold by four seconds). With partners, she won bronze for Mixed Doubles Masters Tennis and Women's Doubles Senior Tennis, and she was on the Women's Open 10 Dragon Boat Race team that took bronze, just 1.08 seconds behind the winning Australians.
Bob Ormston, general manager of the World Police and Fire Games, said Oyama's results are indicative of an elite group of athletes from emergency services careers around the world.
"Kristine's achievements are very impressive, not least because of the range of sporting events in which she excelled," Ormston said.
Oyama said she was proud of her accomplishments, especially since it had been so long since she last competed. "This was my first World Police and Fire Games in 10 years. The last time I competed was in Calgary in Canada in 1997."
Oyama became a firefighter in 1981 and retired as captain of the Lanai fire station in 2000. The 57-year-old grandmother of seven has competed in the Hawaiian State Championships for three years but has long had the competitive edge.
"I maintain fitness with one to two hours a day of tennis at least five days a week and a weightlifting program three days a week," she said.
"For three months before the games, I rowed on an indoor rower to approximate the dragon boat races. I also ran up the stairs of the County Building -- the tallest building on Maui, which is nine floors -- three or four times without a rest."
Some Hawaii residents might remember media coverage of Oyama's career as the first woman to pass the fitness and entry requirements for the fire service, ranking third against eight men.
"I loved the job from the start and didn't want any special treatment. I loved the camaraderie, the three-on-three basketball games, working hard at a fire and then having the leisure time to read, play sports and work out."
Oyama has worked at Kahului, Kihei, Makawao, Paia and Wailuku stations. She spent her last 10 years working on Lanai. "I loved taking the boat to work and was promoted to captain for the last nine years."
Oyama is already preparing for her next games, in Vancouver, Canada, in 2009. "It is so much fun to test yourself, have something to train for and meet so many great people in your professions."