Epic tussles and shady deals noted

Last updated 10:34 30/10/2012
Three of the best: Olympic mountainbikers Rosara Joseph, left, Robyn Wong and Karen Hanlen on Mount Victoria.

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Mountain biking brothers Simon and Jonathon Kennett have written an account of the young sport's evolution in New Zealand through the eyes of its six Olympic representatives.

It might have been five, but for the newcomer Karen Hanlen's hyperbolic rise through the ranks, or it might have been seven, if not for some sharp-dealing by BikeNZ.

In the end, it was six, and the two have interviewed them all about their careers, how they came to cycling and their striving for mountain biking success.

Five were women, with Kashi Leuchs the only male.

Leuchs competed in three games, Sydney, Athens and Beijing.

For London, BikeNZ sneaked an extra male track cyclist into the games by nominating Sam Bewley for the the mountainbike race.

Bewley won a bronze medal with the track pursuit team and defaulted the mountainbike race.

The Kennetts partly attribute the women's dominance to the first Olympic rider, road cyclist and multi-sporter Kathy Lynch who, they suggest, set the initial bar for women very high.

Lynch represented New Zealand in Atlanta in 1996.

She was placed eighth, well above expectations.

The straight-talking Lynch described the commercialised Olympics as "the mother of all bullshit", but acknowledged their power to bring people together.

Susy Pryde was another tough road cyclist who had won silver in the Commonwealth games mountain bike race, despite breaking her arm in a crash.

In the Sydney Olympics she competed on both road and mountain bikes, though illness forced her out of both races.

When Hutt Valley-born, Wairarapa-raised Robyn Wong failed to gain selection for the 2002 Commonwealth Games she shifted her sights to the 2004 Olympics where she placed 16th.

Rosara Joseph was blessed with huge natural ability and a powerful drive to succeed in both her sport and her profession.

The Christchurch-born "Queen of Spin" dominated New Zealand women's mountainbiking for a long period.

It culminated in a ninth placing at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, in spite of two serious crashes.

Joseph also completed a PhD in law and science at Oxford under a Rhodes scholarship and still seemed a sure selection for London in 2012 until Karen Hanlen appeared from nowhere.

The epic tussle between the two for selection makes fascinating reading and it was only settled when Joseph crashed at a World Cup round in France and broke her arm.

The Muddy Olympians, by Simon and Jonathon Kennett is available from bike and bookshops.

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- Hutt News


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