Date: Thursday, 17 December 2015

It's been a whirlwind year for one of New Zealand's brightest track cycling prospects, but it's now time for Nick Kergozou to put his feet up.

An elite member of the national track cycling team, Kergozou has travelled the globe, competed in World Cup events and picked up an impressive medal haul to boot.

Back in Southland for a well-deserved break, it seems there's no better time to reflect on a rollercoaster 12 months.

"Looking back now, it is pretty crazy to think of all the things I have done this year," he said after speaking at this year's Academy Southland graduation, where he himself had attended the previous year.

"I was living here last year coming out of school."

"I didn't expect it to kick off that fast, it has been pretty cool."

"I just decided to come down for a few weeks for a bit of 'R and R', training and changing it up from Cambridge," he said.

Playing a key part in New Zealand's European campaign appears to have been a personal highlight of the past year.

"We went over to Europe and raced over there in some pretty big races," he said.

"It was all so new to me, racing over there."

Closer to home, however, entering the track programme in Cambridge was a defining moment in a breakout year.

The 19-year-old won gold medals in the team pursuit and madison as well as a bronze in the omnium at the Oceania Track Cycling Championships in Invercargill, before racing in World Cup events in California, Colombia and Cambridge.

"It was huge, it pretty much teed off with the World Cup event in Cambridge, which was a big goal met," he said.

He rode in the team pursuit qualifying and the omnium.

"It was pretty good, Australia and ourselves were the only teams to go under four minutes, so that was pretty encouraging," he said.

The omnium event, in particular, appears to have been a huge challenge.

"It was a pretty big step up and there was a huge field of Olympians there including Olympic champ Lasse Norman Hansen.

"Getting to watch race against him was pretty amazing. It was a huge learning experience.

"On the first day there were a few races which didn't go according to plan. The next day I thought that I would just give it a crack and I won the kilo and flying lap to finish seventh place in my first elite race," he said.

Kergozou's teacher at Otatara School, Julian Ineson, introduced him to the sport eight years ago on a class visit to the SIT Velodrome and coached him until recently.

"He handed over the reins when I made the New Zealand team based in Cambridge," Kergozou said.

"He has got me to where I am so it is pretty cool."

Ineson is not surprised by his former student's success, having set long-term goals together in the past.

"Nick being at the high performance centre now in Cambridge has doors opening for him," he said.

"His work ethic speaks volumes, he recognises what needs to be done and how it needs to be achieved."

"He is a great athlete to work with and a great guy both on and off the bike."

Kergozou may have the opportunity to unwind over Christmas but the respite is short-lived.

January's road nationals are already looming, while making an impression at the track nationals is also at the front of his mind.

"Hopefully I get selected for the worlds and then go over to Europe," he said.

However, it appears there's an even bigger objective for new year.

"[Making the New Zealand squad for the Rio Olympics] is pretty big, just trying to get into the 'A' team is what I want to be pushing for," he said.

"I ride in both the team pursuit and omnium which are both Olympic events which is a big bonus for me."

Article courtesy Stuff, photo courtesy Dianne Manson Getty Images


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