Southland junior cycling star Nick Kergozou has returned from the junior world track championships in Korea with a bronze medal, plenty of experience and a new nickname.
The Southland Boys' High School year 13 prefect was part of a 14-strong BikeNZ team and a member of the bronze medal winning team pursuit combination.
However, it was the 18-year-old's winning ride in the the 1000m time trial section or 'kilo' of the six-event omnium that garnered Kergozou his new moniker from his team-mates - ''Kilo Kergy''.
His time of 1min 03.801sec would have been good enough for a silver medal in the individual 1000m time trial event.
''I beat my personal best by at least two seconds,'' Kergozou said.
It was mixed emotions for the cyclist who was overlooked for the individual 1000m time trial and selected to compete in the team pursuit and omnium.
''I was a bit gutted but I've done the time and that is what future selectors will see,'' he said. ''I think my coach was a bit surprised.''
The impressive effort was almost good enough to help Kergozou hang a second bronze around his neck.
Kergozou fought back from sixth to third place on the back of his kilo as he headed into final event of the gruelling omnium.
However, he could not latch on to the group that put a lap on the field during the final points race.
The junior world championships was Kergozou's first taste of international competition as part of the Kiwi team.
''I was always on the edge of selection but had never been on the team. So to get there was awesome,'' he said.
The experience also provided valuable lessons for a young cyclist with an eye on the future.
''I think I gained a lot from the championships. There were so many learning curves,'' he said.
The curves included negotiating a velodrome much longer than he had raced on and much bigger than he had ridden in.
''The track is 333-metres and holds about 30,000 people,'' he said.
Kergozou said he was happy with his performances especially going up against some experienced campaigners and tackling the omnium in a new format for the first time.
''They changed the order of the events for the championships. I had never ridden them in that order for competition while some of the European riders had,'' he said.
Spurred on by his kilo success in Korea, Kergozou said he would place a bit of focus on the sprint event heading into national competitions.
Kergozou is back training in Invercargill for an upcoming international tier 1 event in Cambridge before suiting up for the Junior Tour of Southland in October.
Like many outstanding young Southland cyclists, Kergozou is also contemplating relocating to Cambridge.
''I think that will be something that will need to happen for my cycling career,'' he said.
But for now it's about balancing the school books while hitting the boards at the at the SIT Velodrome in Invercargill.
Fellow Southlanders Michael Culling and Laura Heywood also benefited from going up against the world's best in Korea.
Culling battled hard against the dominant Europeans in the 1000m time trial finishing in 12th place and finished 19th in the Keirin. He was also part of the eighth placed team sprint squad.
Heywood finished 12th in the scratch race.
AT A GLANCE
The Omnium consists of six events:
- A one-lap flying start time trial
- A 5km scratch race
- An elimination race
- A 4km individual pursuit
- A 15km points race
- A 1km time trial
Photo and article courtesy The Southland Times