Rainbow jersey still in plans for elite rider

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 24/01/2013

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Southland track rider Matt Dodds' dreams of winning a rainbow jersey at the masters world championships have been put on hold for a year, another twist in an interesting sporting tale.

Dodds plans to shift to Australia later this year to start a coaching and conditioning business, and he was hoping to be to able to do that as a world champion but, despite turning 35 soon, he is ineligible for masters competition after competing as an elite rider at the Oceania Championships last year.

The Oceania event provided a highlight of his track career with a bronze medal and personal best in the 1000m time trial with a time of 1:05. Not bad considering he's been riding the boards for fewer than three years.

In fact, if things had played out the way he thought, Dodds would have been carrying the ball off the back of the Canterbury scrum and pushing for a place in the Crusaders a few years ago.

Injuries, however, have not been kind.

After playing age group rugby for Southland he shifted to Christchurch and was a member of the much vaunted Canterbury academy system. Two years running he was named in the Canterbury NPC squad only for a broken thumb to force him out.

He had a season playing for Marlborough, before heading to the United States where he lined up with top division one team Belmont Shore in California.

During a late-season game, when he was running off the back of a scrum, he was hit in a tackle by the opposing openside flanker.

After coming home at the end of the season and struggling to shake off a sore neck, he was eventually diagnosed with a prolapsed disc and told not to play contact sports.

Back in New Zealand, Dodds' commercial pilot's licence had expired and he didn't have enough money to renew it. Instead, he started studying and hasn't stopped, mixing sport and exercise with digital media, running the Southern Institute of Technology gym as well as doing his own coaching and some coaching work for Cycling Southland.

Dodds, an avid surfer and snowboarder, was then introduced to mountain biking.

He bought a road bike to improve his fitness and then made the progression to the track.

Having missed out on eligibility for the world masters in Manchester this year, he'll now represent Southland at next week's elite track nationals in Invercargill for a second time, contesting the 200m qualifier, keirin, sprints and as a member of Southland's No 2 team in the team sprint.

It's been an interesting journey.

"Hopefully, there's plenty more to come. Hopefully, I can get a rainbow jersey next year, which is every rider's dream," Dodds said.

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The elite and under-19 track nationals start next Thursday and run through until Sunday.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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