Cycling Southland enjoyed one of its proudest weeks over the past seven days. In a 24 hour stretch eight of our Club members were named in New Zealand squads to represent their country at world championships and each and every one of them has got there on the back of a huge amount of hard work, sacrifice and dedication individually and by their support teams and families.
To have five Cycling Southlanders in the black skin suit taking on the world’s best in front of a home crowd at Junior Worlds in August is the beyond our wildest dreams. But it’s the manner in which these young men and women have earned selection which gives me the most enjoyment.
Liam Aitcheson was lying in a hospital bed last year after a serious head injury after coming off his bike. He turned up and rode the Southland track champs in December with little experience on the boards but his rides in the points and individual pursuit made many put a line under his name as “one to watch.” He backed that up with a superb victory in the Points race at the Nationals and basically gave the selectors no option but to pick him.
Tom Beadle’s talent on a bike can’t be questioned but after 12 months of overcoming curve-balls thrown at him by his body, he produced a superb National Championship campaign to lock down selection. Sophie Williamson has also triumphed over injury and health issues this past year. She again showed her mercurial talent in winning the Points gold at Nationals on a limited build-up and is a great chance to improve on her bronze medal from last year’s worlds.
Cycling has a habit of taking late-starters and turning them in to national reps in a short space of time. Kate Dunlevey is another example. She broke the qualification mark in the 500m Time Trial at Nationals and her rapid progression makes her a key part of the women’s sprint programme. Then there’s Jeremy Presbury, another who forced his way into the squad on the back of form at the Nationals. He has literally exploded into national consideration over the last six months and we know there is plenty more where that came from.
The following day, Eddie Dawkins, Natasha Hansen and Matt Archibald were named to ride at the World Elite Championships in Melbourne next week.
By his own admission Eddie hasn’t been at his best over the last year. We can confirm, right on cue, the big fella is back! Natasha Hansen’s rapid progression has been well documented and she again lowered her PB over 200 metres in Perth on Saturday night, proving she is timing her preparation to perfection. If there is a more dedicated man than Matt Archibald, I’m yet to meet him. He has earned a World Champs spot with pure hard work, focus and determination.
I get a funny feeling we may have a few more proud weeks before this year is done.
Nick Jeffrey is Cycling Southland's Chief Executive.