Local Olympians of the future, Southland's ace U19 sprinter Jeremy Presbury and Central Otago's flying Liam Aitcheson are among a six-strong Kiwi team heading to the Youth Olympic Festival in Sudney next month.
The Festival, from 17-20 January, is expected to attract 1700 athletes under-18 years from 30 nations across 17 sports. It is a legacy programme born out of the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, providing an Olympic-like experience across a number of sports in a village environment.
The BikeNZ track team is headed by three members of this year’s successful team at the world junior championships in the Southland pair of Presbury and Aitcheson and Auckland’s Zac Williams. They will be joined by the Marlborough pair of Callum Saunders and Quinn Karwowski and Auckland’s Chad Elliston.
Aitchison won silver in the men’s team pursuit while Presbury (Invercargill) was fourth in the final of the keirin and the team sprint with Williams.
Saunders won the recent road race honours at the national secondary school championships, while Karwowski took out the under-17 title. Elliston won six medals at the national track championships and the under-17 title at the national criterium championships.
“This event represents a unique opportunity on two fronts for our riders. It is an excellent competitive situation against some of the best young track riders of their age on a very good indoor velodrome in Sydney,” said BikeNZ high performance director Mark Elliott.
“It is an invaluable experience in a multi-sport environment for our riders. As they move through to consideration for the Commonwealth Games and Olympics, being able to manage and thrive in this sort of environment is one of the keys to success.”
London Olympians Eddie Dawkins, Lauren Ellis, Shane Archbold, Ethan Mitchell and Sam Webster all enjoyed their first taste of international success at past Festivals.
The New Zealand Olympic Committee will name the full team next week.
The BikeNZ team is: Liam Aitcheson 17, (Alexandra); Jeremy Presbury 17, (Invercargill); Zac Williams 17, (Auckland); Callum Saunders (Blenheim); Quinn Karwowski (Blenheim); Chad Elliston (Auckland).
Staff: Ross Machejefski (Coach), John Rastrick (Coach), Jason McKenzie (Manager).
CAPTION: Jeremy Presbury - Photo courtesy James Jubb, Envious Photography