Four Southland cyclists are part of a nationwide sports development programme. Academy Southland's strong track record in developing talent has had it selected to run the Pathway to Podium programme locally, with junior world track championships representatives Michael Culling, Laura Heywood and Nick Kergozou, along with para-cyclist Victoria Baldwin, part of the initiative.
Pathway to Podium is funded by Sport New Zealand and High Performance Sport New Zealand and is designed to better prepare athletes to enter the demanding high performance sport environment. Athletes will receive support, advice and workshops in areas such as nutrition, mental skills, and strength and conditioning, as well as services specifically tailored to each athlete.
This is similar to what Academy Southland delivers, although Pathway to Podium athletes are selected by their national sporting organisations (NSO)e rather than at a local level.
Academy Southland manager Jason McKenzie will co-ordinate the Pathway to Podium programme and said it was great to see Sport New Zealand and High Performance Sport New Zealand taking a pro-active approach to talent development nationwide.
"It's going to be really valuable for the athletes involved, especially having been identified by their NSO and having those links already there," he said.
"Academy Southland has been supporting athletes in the talent development space since 2005, so we are very well placed to roll out Pathway to Podium in Southland.
"This year seven athletes, who have been through the Academy Southland programme, will compete at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, so what we are doing here is working. Hopefully, with Pathway to Podium, we will see even more of our local athletes move into national squads and teams and excel at international level."
Sport New Zealand chief executive Peter Miskimmin said Pathway to Podium would effectively complement the positive work already being done in talent development in the south.
"Pathway to Podium is not designed to replace Academy Southland but rather to complement and grow the work already being done to help ensure targeted athletes are well prepared for the high performance environment."
- Article and photo courtesy The Southland Times