Pieter Bulling on track for 2016 Rio Olympics

LOGAN SAVORY
Last updated 05:00 22/08/2014
Pieter Bulling
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ
RIDING FOR RIO: Southland cyclist Pieter Bulling wants to push on to success at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

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From Waihopai Primary School to events like the World Track Cycling Championships and the Commonwealth Games has been a impressive journey. Logan Savory catches up with Pieter Bulling about that ride and what the focus is now.

At a have-a-go day a decade or so ago Cycling Southland stalwart Laurie Tall spotted something a little bit unique in Pieter Bulling, then a Waihopai Primary School pupil.

Tall felt he had come across something special, although Bulling himself didn't give it much thought at the time.

"Laurie Tall noticed me down at sort of a play day at Kew Bowl one day with Waihopai School. Ever since then he was on my tail all the time, ringing me, saying come out for training. He's got a huge part to play in my success," Bulling said.

"Obviously he could tell I loved to ride my bike and I had some talent. But I didn't make it easy for him. I was a young kid and I wanted to do all of these other things."

Tall's good judgment and persistence, however, paid off.

At under-15 and under-17 level Bulling dominated nationally and he looked destined to clear a path to international success.

He attended a Junior World Championships in Italy in 2010, picking up a fourth place finish in in the teams pursuit and the points race, and a seventh place finish in the madison.

It was all set up for Bulling for assault on the next Junior World Championships.

But to the disappointment of many cycling folk, at 17, he decided he had had enough and stepped away from the sport.

"It was all pretty full on and I was just missing being a boy. I was missing hanging out with my mates and just being a kid."

When Bulling reflects now he believes that decision to not head back to the Junior World Championships for a second time, and instead take six months off, was the correct one.

"It was very hard to do at the time but it was definitely the right decision for me," he said.

Bulling is now in the BikeNZ high performance programme.

In February he was part of the New Zealand teams pursuit combination which won bronze at the World Track Cycling Championships in Colombia. Last month he was part of the group which added a bronze medal to their collection at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

"It was definitely a huge experience. That was my first Commonwealth Games. It is just a bit different though, because I had been to the World Championships but the New Zealand public get in behind the Commonwealth Games so much more than the world champs, for example."

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While Bulling was delighted to now have a Commonwealth Games medal in his possession he admitted it was not the performance the team pursuit combination was after in Glasgow.

"I was pleased to come away with a medal but it is not what I wanted. It was not what I had worked so hard for. We were better than that. We should have been in that gold and silver ride off . . . We need to go back to the drawing board and sort that now because if we don't do it now, before we know it, it is going to be 2016 and we are going to be at the Olympics."

The former Southland Boys' High School pupil said a trip to Rio for the Olympics in 2016 was his major focus.

"I'm going through to 2016 and I'm going to give it everything I've got. Then I'll reassess what I'm going to do for the rest of my life."

Bulling said he owed a lot to the Southland people for putting him in the position of attending events like the World Championships and Commonwealth Games.

He feels young Southland athletes are offered much more support than others get throughout the country.

That support, Bulling said, included the Academy Southland programme headed by Jason McKenzie, which helps athletes go to the high performance level.

He also said the community's financial support had helped him in a big way.

"I have had a lot of support down here, Southern-Wide Real Estate, Wensley Cycles, Ivan Bulling Furniture - if I didn't have them I probably wouldn't be here today doing what I'm doing."

- The Southland Times

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