Athletes thrive on extra support

PRIZE PAIR: Vaughan McCall, left, and Jacob Duffy, year one and two Academy Southland Athletes of the year, pose with their trophies.
PRIZE PAIR: Vaughan McCall, left, and Jacob Duffy, year one and two Academy Southland Athletes of the year, pose with their trophies.

The achievements of some of the country's most promising young athletes have been recognised, and the new intake of Academy Southland athletes for 2013 named, at a function last night.

While the list of accomplishments from the Academy Southland Talent Xcelerator programme Year 1, 2 and scholarship athletes is impressive - including Youth Olympic, Junior World Championship and World Cup performances - programme manager Jason McKenzie has also been impressed by the personal success many of the athletes have achieved.

Three past or present scholarship athletes have been recognised by their universities this year; cyclist Cameron Karwowski winning a Massey University Blues Award, Hayden Cohen named Waikato University Athlete of the Year and Sequoia Cooper winning the Otago School of Physiotherapy's prestigious Athletic Shield.

The programme, too, has grown to include more intensive support, with strength and conditioning specialist Simon Jones and dietician Aimee Burns joining the team.

"The biggest things for me this year has been the growth of our providers and team we wrap around the athletes," McKenzie says. "Having people of the quality of Simon and Aimee on board allows us to wrap a support team around each athlete.

"This is having a huge impact on the athletes and the changes they are able to make. [Golfer] Vaughan McCall has developed his clubhead speed and has made massive changes to his game day nutrition. For [cricketer] Jacob Duffy, the work he did with strength and conditioning and our podiatrist made a massive difference to him."

The performances of the programme athletes this year, says McKenzie, have been outstanding.

"When you look at where they have been and what they've done, it is huge, they have been all over the world," he says.

Highlights include that of McCall, who became the first New Zealander in 24 years to win both the New Zealand Amateur and the New Zealand Stroke Play Championships, and Duffy, who won a professional contract with the Otago Volts.

The pair won the Year 1 (McCall) and Year 2 (Duffy) Academy Southland Outstanding Overall Performance of the Year awards, and their achievements sit among a host of others that highlight the talent in Southland.

International performances have included cyclists Jeremy Presbury, Kate Dunlevey and Tom Beadle's feats at the UCI World Track Junior Championships, World Junior Championship performances from Tim Campbell (softball) and Duffy (cricket), Youth Olympic selection for cyclists Presbury and Josh Haggerty, rower Kristen Froude and triathlete Troy McAlister and Tori Peeters, Jade Graham and Greer Alsop's achievements in athletics at the Oceania Championships.

The Southland Times