On Thursday night Cycling Southland held a Send-off Function for our Olympic, Paralympic and Junior Worlds cyclists. From this week our crop of talented bike riders start the next phases of their respective campaigns with pre-competition training camps as they scatter around the globe.
Last week’s send-off featured three Olympic squad members in Eddie Dawkins, Natasha Hansen and Matt Archibald, three Paralympians in Phillipa Gray and tandem pilots Laura Thompson and Kylie Young and three Junior World track representatives in Kate Dunlevey, Tom Beadle and Jeremy Presbury. Take a moment and think about what an incredible achievement it is for a province like Southland to be contributing that many to the select bunch of athletes who will represent their country at the various pinnacles of the sport this year.
It shows the dedication from the athletes themselves, but speaks volumes to the support groups – coaches, community, funders and most especially, families – that each rider relies on heavily to make it and stay at the top.
Each of the riders has their own unique story to tell. Dawkins is a true Southland success story. Having been riding a bike competitively since the age of 12, he has done it the old fashioned way, through a lot of hard work, coming up through the grades and taking every opportunity to give back to the community which has watched him grow into an athlete of world standing before their very eyes. Hansen and Archibald have both relocated to Southland and have shown incredible commitment in holding down fulltime jobs whilst improving out of sight in short spaces of time. Most talk about 2016 in Rio as the long-term focus for all three, but I know all have their eyes firmly set on London in just a few short week’s time.
Phillipa Gray and Laura Thompson have quickly formed a world class combination and along with Kylie Young, who will partner former World champion Jayne Parsons, all three are realistic Paralympic medal chances in the 3000m Pursuit. A Kiwi and Southland double is not beyond the realms of possibility.
Our three Junior Worlds reps will, over the next three months, become very familiar names. All three have followed different paths to get to this point in their young cycling careers but all now have the same goal – winning world championship medals in front of a home crowd in August.
It’s ironic, given the World Champs are to be staged in their home towns, that the Junior athletes and their families face some hefty travel bills to allow the riders to train in Australia, the United States or Europe over the next couple of months.
To this end we have a fundraising auction which is currently underway. We have three signed BikeNZ Cycling Tops signed by the riders mentioned above and all of the winning bids will go to the Junior Worlds families.