Southland athletes seek Olympic stardom

Yesterday marked a year to the day to the start of the 2012 Olympic Games – the pinnacle in most athletes' careers, writes Logan Savory in this week's Sav's Say.

The event rolls around once every four years and for many of the athletes that will front it will be their one and only shot at Olympic glory.

Some will turn out again in Rio in 2016 but they certainly can't bank on it – and then there is the fact it will be held in London, a city that is bound to go off during the three-week event.

If you want to propel yourself into the world of sporting stardom London wouldn't be a bad place to do it. It is also big business, more for bragging rights for respective countries than anything else.

Take Australia, for example. It has set itself a target of being a top-five country as far as medals go and is investing $42 million into getting that result next year.

New Zealand won't probably fare as well as Australia but is likely to still have a strong contingent in London next year and the goal must be to match, or better, the nine-medal haul in Beijing, which was the best result for New Zealand since Barcelona in 1992.

There is little doubt our rowers, and probably cyclists, are New Zealand's best medal prospects – of course shotputter Valerie Vili-Adams can almost certainly be marked down as one medal.

With the Southland hat on, London 2012 has an even more exciting tinge to it as we eye the international stage with more than a flicker of hope.

As has been pointed out, our rowers are probably New Zealand's brightest hope in London and the team is likely to have a strong Southland presence.

Nathan Cohen and Storm Uru both competed at the Beijing Olympics as youngsters in 2008 with limited results.

Three years later the two seem wiser, more settled and certainly better chances as far as medals go.

Pointing out a Southlander has never won a gold medal at an Olympics Games may be adding too much pressure but it must be noted there is an opportunity to do something very special as far as Southland sport goes.

Cohen and Uru are sitting not too badly at the moment, picking up gold medals at two recent World Cup regattas, although the World Championships next month will truly show just where these two are at.

The frontline 2012 Olympic Games rowing prospects are all expected to front at the 2011 world championships in the leadup to London. Storm Uru's younger brother, Jade, and Louise Ayling are other Southland rowers who next month will compete at the world championships in Slovenia with their goal also to get to London next year.

Southland is likely to also feature in New Zealand's track cycling team through the likes of Eddie Dawkins and Tom Scully.

They, too, will regard themselves medal prospects if they in fact get to London, but probably outsiders, to be frank.

Southland's leading swimmer, Natalie Wiegersma, has had some major setbacks during her career which has included being ruled out of the Fina world championships being held in Shanghai at the moment because of an ongoing shoulder injury.

A medal may be a long shot for the Waverley club member but, when it comes to swimming, to compete on the biggest stage is an accomplishment in itself.

There are a group of other Southlanders in various sports who have the goal of getting to the Olympics.

For them the next 12 months are going to take one heck of an effort to book themselves a ticket to London. But from my dealings with these people they will put their best foot forward to do so.

» Logan Savory is a former Southland cricket representative who was named New Zealand junior sportswriter of the year at the 2007 TP McLean journalism awards. His main rounds are cricket and rugby.

The Southland Times