Champions heralded in parade on O‘ahu

WAIKIKI — A group of 11- to 13-year-olds, an Olympic gold medalist and one of the country’s best volleyball players were escorted down Kalakaua Avenue to greet hundreds of their fans for this season’s special Parade of Champions Monday on O‘ahu.

This was the fans’ chance to celebrate the local stars, the Waipio Little League World Series Champions, soccer forward Natasha Kai, silver medalist Robyn Ah Mow-Santos and a slew of Hawai‘i’s past Olympians.

The young baseball players from Waipio charged through regional qualifiers on O‘ahu, won the state championships at the Kawaihau Little League field at Kapa‘a, got through some of the country’s best teams and went undefeated in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

The last team to go undefeated at the championships was the Ewa Beach team, which also won it all in 2005.

Leading the Little League entourage was a car showcasing Paliku Winchester, the younger brother of third baseman Pikai Winchester. The story of Paliku, who was diagnosed with lymphoma in February, was considered a lucky charm for the team and was one of the many stories surrounding Little League.

Iolana Akau suffered a stress fracture in his first at bat at the series, but was able to return to the lineup, and the team rallied to win half of their games to be dubbed the “Comeback Kids.”

At the opposite end of the world, the most elite athletes were competing in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Some 18 athletes had ties to Hawai‘i and 12 earned medals.

The first of them to win gold was the Kahuku High School and University of Hawai‘i alum Natasha Kai.

Kai scored the winning goal against Canada in the 102nd minute of play sending the U.S. women’s soccer team to the gold medal match. This gave the women the chance to win their third gold medal in four Olympic Games.

The parade also included past Olympians Kathy Hammond (1972 track), Verneda Thomas (1964 volleyball), present Olympians Ah Mow-Santos (silver medal volleyball) and Clarissa Chun (wrestling), as well as some of the lesser known Hawai‘i champions such as the Mililiani-Waipio Bobby Sox champions and the USSSA World Series Baseball U10 Oahu Dirtbags.

Missing from the parade was men’s volleyball gold medalist Clay Stanley and gold medalist Bryan Clay.

In Clay’s absence, a car drove by with an enlarged cardboard cutout of the Wheaties box with him on the front.

The parade started at roughly 5 p.m. on a shut-down Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki and ended at Queen’s Surf Beach with a video presentation, taped by Clay.

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