Hansen inspired by fresh challenge

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 27/09/2013
COLLETTE DEVLIN/TheSouthlandTimes

Olympic track cyclist Natasha Hansen swaps her bike for boxing gloves as she prepares for the Fight for Christchurch in November

Natasha Hansen
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ
STEPPING INTO THE RING: Natasha Hansen.

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Olympic track cyclist Natasha Hansen will step into the ring against Tactix netballer Keshia Grant in November.

Hansen, who finished ninth in the sprint and 11th in the keirin at the 2012 Olympics, said her first foray into boxing had given her the ideal challenge after deciding to take some time out from racing after London.

"Because I was taking the rest of the year off I needed to do something that was going to help me be better in my cycling next year.

"I believe boxing is only going to enhance my cycling and already I've felt that I'm stronger on the bike with my upper body and core strength. It's also nice to have a break and do something that's still serious and highly competitive, but different from cycling."

Hansen will take part in the Fight for Christchurch on November 28, raising money for Ronald McDonald House, the organisation she recently became a Southland ambassador for.

The Invercargill-based air traffic controller said her motivation had flagged after the Olympics and she had made the decision to step back from racing this year.

"I decided to take a little break, I decided there were a few issues over the last year or so that were limiting my ability to train and perform at my optimum. The Commonwealth Games is my main focus for next season," she said.

"As a human being, for anyone to be at their optimum, they need to be in the right mental state, and I wasn't. Now is my time to rebuild and be surrounded by the support network I have down here to get me back to my optimum."

Hansen has still been training for cycling under coach Jerard Stock three to four times a week and plans to ride her way back into the BikeNZ women's sprint programme, and a place in the team for Glasgow, via next year's national track championships.

In the meantime, she has also been working out under the watchful eye of Invercargill boxing trainer Tui-Maree Sonter.

Hansen has found the training demanding, not just physically, but also mentally as she tries to develop a technique to take advantage of her leg power from cycling.

Getting hit during sparring hasn't been too much of an issue, in fact it's been the opposite.

"My coach hasn't allowed anyone to go full noise on me. I haven't [had] any black eyes yet, fortunately. I've actually struggled the most with having to hit someone else in the head.

"The first time I was told I had to punch someone in the head, I just sort of pulled away. Still I'm struggling to hit people in the face, which I guess is human nature for most of us."

Sonter said the prospect of working with a professional athlete from another sport, and trying to turn them into a boxer in less than five months was exciting.

"She's going really good and it's really exciting to be able to train an athlete at that level. I can really push her harder than most," she said.

"We are using the legs to maximum benefit, I'm not trying to work on a strong upper body and core."

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■ For video of cyclist Natasha Hansen's switch to boxing, go to www.southlandtimes.co.nz

- The Southland Times

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