Pool Runnings: Tongan swimming team with no pool competes at NZ's AIMS Games

You've probably heard of Cool Runnings, the movie about a Jamaican bob sled team with no snow to train on.

But a Tongan swimming team could perhaps give them a run for their money as 'Pool Runnings'; they've had to get creative with their training for Tauranga's AIMS Games because they lack a key ingredient back home - a proper pool.

The Tongans are among the 11,000 intermediate age kids from around New Zealand and the Pacific taking part in the AIMS Games in Tauranga this week, competing across 22 sports.

They had to train for the 15th instalment of the games in the murky waters of the naval base at Nuku'alofa.

"We got all these little ropes and connected them end to end," explained 13-year-old Saia Day. "We also don't have a proper coach, so all our parents are watching YouTube and learning from that!"

AIMS Games attracts 326 schools from as far away as Australia, Samoa and the Cook Islands. It's been a springboard for aspiring international athletes like All Black Nathan Harris, world champion rower Zoe Stevenson and Commonwealth Games triathlon medallist Tayler Reid.

Tonga's swim team, though, has had to learn to tumble-turn, dive and stay in a lane - tricky when you're dodging sea life in a roped off harbour.

Training took a hit with February's devastating Tropical Cyclone Gita, but life went on hold as families rebuilt their lives.

"The houses were destroyed and there were lots of metals in the naval base - we couldn't train in there because we might get a cut in our body," Vaoahi Afu says.

Tonga's manager Kilisitina Uhi says people back home are proud of their kids training six days a week.

And in Tauranga, the team has inherited a Kiwi cheer squad. Pensioner Terry Hurdle and wife Raewyn, like several locals, are hosting overseas teams.

"Everytime we see them we yell 'Tonga!' so we feel proud of them to be supporting them all the way - that's what it's about."