Top New Zealand track cyclist Nick Kergozou is aiming to put the disappointment of missing out on the Rio Olympics three years ago behind him with selection for the Tokyo Games in 2020.
Kergozou made a rare return home from his base in Cambridge recently and spoke to year one and two athletes from Academy Southland, the programme he was part of during his development years as a rider.
The 22-year-old Cycling Southland rider talked about the important role Academy Southland had played in his progression, ensuring that the jump into elite sport has been a relatively smooth transition.
Nick Kergozou, on right, Jack Pedler, and Tom Sexton, to left, in the Elite and U19 Track National Championships in 2016.
And Kergozou has made that transition well – despite being in his early 20s, he is one of the most experienced members of the New Zealand men's team pursuit squad.
While he was frustratingly close to being selected for the 2016 Rio Olympics, Kergozou has a clear idea of what will be required to ensure he's on the plane to Tokyo.
That's really my goal and that's all I'm focusing on. Everything I do now is for that. The learning process that I went through before Rio – I think I've got that down and it's just about keeping doing what I'm doing and progressing," Kergozou said.
"[Rio] was a bit too early. I had the power, there was a couple of technical issues, just being a smooth rider. It was a bit of inexperience, there were a couple of guys who had been to an Olympics before and definitely had an advantage over me."
In other news, Kergozou confirmed Invercargill and Southland could play a key role in the New Zealand endurance team's build up to the Tokyo Olympics.
The SIT Velodrome will host the Oceania track cycling championships in October, while riders could stay on for the SBS Bank Tour of Southland.
"We need a good training base behind us, so we'll be off to America and Canada for some racing, I'm not too sure where else we are going to go," Kergozou said.
"We also plan on coming down to Oceania championships in Invercargill in October and we'll probably stay for a month and take in the Tour of Southland. That will be a good phase, with the track racing at the start, complimented by a 1000km week on the road.
"Those two events will be a big key for Tokyo. We are planning on having the whole team down here for the tour, still not sure if it will be a national team or individual riders.
"Every year we see it as a stepping stone to compliment the next year, we missed it last year, but Tom Sexton rode and it definitely showed with his bronze medal at the world champs. That showed what the Tour of Southland does for a rider."
- This article was supplied by Sport Southland. Everyone active, every day.
- Photo courtesy Robyn Edie Southland Times