Losing isn't an option in Wayne's world
Few athletes roll straight from a successful stint in one sport directly into another. Clay Wilson caught up with a Marlborough man who excelled in cycling and, when that was done, wasted no time in forging what continues to be a stellar pool career....
One key thing underlines the sporting success of Wayne Palatchie.
Firstly in cycling and now in pool, the Blenheim painting and paper-hanging business owner has achieved plenty. The main reason behind that is simple - he hates losing and, largely because of that, has lost a lot less than most over the years.
A former national title winner and New Zealand representative in cycling, Wayne has played pool for his province of birth for more than 30 years and remains one of Marlborough's leading players.
So how does a person turn from cycling to pool? For Wayne, it was straightforward.
"I used to do a lot of [cycling] training and was out all the time on my bike. It can be a bit of a lonely sport at times and, for me, I found the best way to relax was to go to the pub and have a game of pool and a pint . . . when I got out of cycling I liked pool that much I just kept playing."
Rugby was his first sporting passion. However, when older brother Don won South Island and national under-16 cycling titles, it was not long before Wayne, then aged 12, and other brother Geoff, who went on to break a NZ quarter-mile record, were soon on bikes themselves.
Wayne recalls playing rugby on Saturday mornings, rushing home for lunch before heading off to cycling. But, after two years of that and several successes on the Marlborough club scene, he decided cycling was the sport for him.
"I had to toss one of them aside and I couldn't see myself becoming an All Black so I chose cycling.
"I started getting quite good results after going to a few NZ Championships. I knew I was good enough to win - you had to put a lot of time and effort into it - but I just believed I could get there."
In 1975, Wayne's third-place finish in the sprint at the national champs signalled bigger things to come and was the moment he knew he was capable of even better.
The following year he was third again, but impressed enough to be selected in the New Zealand team, alongside Don, for the inaugural Oceania cycling championships, becoming the first Kiwi to ride in that event. In 1977 and 1978 he was second in the sprint at nationals, but it was a different story in 1979.
"I remember when I lined up on the start line there was no way I was going to lose, I was sick of being third and second for four years. I went in full of confidence, I'd learnt tactically what to do from the losses I'd had in the past and I won the final in two straight races. It was the best-of-three rides."
Wayne rode for New Zealand in their internal tour against Australia that year and reckons he was in even better form going into the 1980 nationals. Unfortunately a hernia six weeks before the event ruled him out. That required eight months off a bike and in that time "other interests came along". Cycling was also very expensive and, "sick of being broke," he deciding to stop competitive involvement at 26.
Along with his national title win, Wayne mentions winning the Pennington Cup as a highlight. Riding as the Wellington centre's best sprinter, he beat counterparts from a number of other provinces on a grass track for what could also be classed as a NZ title. In doing so he joined Fred Jones, who won the Pennington Cup in 1948, as the only riders from Marlborough to lift that piece of silverware.
Marlborough club riders still compete for the James Palatchie Cup, named after Wayne's uncle who was a top Marlborough rider prior to World War Two.
But his withdraw from cycling was far from the end of his sporting days.
By 1979, he had developed enough to be chosen in the Marlborough pool team for the first time. He won six from six as Marlborough claimed the prized Seddon Shield Districts tournament that year and, when his cycling days ended, pool automatically became No 1.
Wayne has gone on to win countless Marlborough singles and pairs titles and the South Island pairs crown twice. Still the captain of the Marlborough team, he has also been involved in all bar three of their 14 Seddon Shield triumphs, treasuring every one.
"The Seddon Shield is one I always like to play in - we've won that 14 times, more times than any other province. Nelson have won it 13 times. That's the big one at the end of the year we all play for and there's been some really exciting moments."
While he gave it away in 1980, cycling has not completely disappeared from Wayne's life. Another former top Marlborough rider and the first NZer to win a world UCI title, Alan Miller, convinced Wayne to join him on the tandem at the 1990 nationals. The pair won silver, but Wayne said training for the event "just about killed me" and soon put the bike back in the garage.
Two years ago, he got back into cycling to lose some weight. He has done two GrapeRides in that time and hopes to be back riding again soon after nearly 12 months off with a lumbar sprain in his back.
Wayne's own success has rubbed off on his son Bradley. One of Marlborough's top shooters, Bradley has also been to an Oceania Games, where he represented New Zealand at under-25 level. The pair have received plenty of support from their wife and mother Leigh-Anne and Wayne said, when it comes to sport, she has always made it easy for him and his son.
That and all the hours of training aside, there is no doubt why Wayne Palatchie is a successful sportsman.
"I just had that will to win, I didn't like losing. The more I lost, the more I trained."
WEEKLY SPORTS STAR
Name: Wayne Palatchie.
Born: Blenheim, 1954.
Educated: Redwoodtown School, Bohally Intermediate, Marlborough Boys' College.
Earliest sporting hero: Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali).
Latest sporting hero: All Blacks, Lance Armstrong, son Bradley.
Must-watch TV programme: The news.
Must-have food: Steak.
What's hot on your MP3 player (walkman/stereo): Country music.
Favourite holiday spot: Rarotonga.
Superstitions: Have none.
Worst sporting moment: America's Cup defeat.
In five years I'll be: Hopefully retired.
- The Marlborough Express