Early victories flag historic Games medal tally

THE BEST: Sam Webster, left, Ethan Mitchell and Eddie Dawkins celebrate gold.
THE BEST: Sam Webster, left, Ethan Mitchell and Eddie Dawkins celebrate gold.

Fuelled by its world-class track cycling team and an unexpected haul from its inspiring judo fighters, New Zealand's Commonwealth Games team is on target to achieve a historic goal in Glasgow and escape any post-election funding cuts.

New Zealand's 232-strong team travelled to Scotland with a collective goal of reaching 600 medals mark since the Games were first held. With 565 bagged before leaving, it means the team needs 35 medals - just one short of how many the team won at the Delhi Games four years ago.

The eight medals won by the cyclists and judokas over the first two days of competition means the New Zealand Olympic Committee is already ahead of an average of at least three medals required every 24 hours of the 11 days of competition in Glasgow.

That was ahead of the prospect of further medals overnight last night and this morning, with cycling's world championship silver medallist Tom Scully set to ride in the points race final and London Olympics bronze medallist Simon van Velthooven in the one-kilometre time trial final.

There were also several New Zealanders in weight divisions for scheduled judoka finals including John Koster, who is ranked No. 1 in the Commonwealth in his division, and Tim Slyfield, a Games bronze medallist 12 years ago.

The five medals, including two golds, achieved by New Zealand's track cycling squad so far has only increased the respect and new-found stature the Kiwis are finding in the track world. No longer considered a kid brother to powerhouses Australia and England, New Zealand's prospects at the Rio Olympics continue to look brighter and brighter.

Sam Webster's sprint gold and the team sprint gold have been powerful markers two years out from Rio.

The NZOC will be delighted with the flying start to its goal which, if achieved, will help ring-fence the organisation from any future funding cuts.

The Government has already signalled a 17 per cent cut to sports funding over the next year. That is a $17 million reduction from the $100m committed each year, although the Government has cushioned that blow by saying the cuts are mostly related to one-off projects that no longer need support.

BikeNZ is one national sports organisation breathing easier after its strong start to these Games and Judo New Zealand will already be preparing its submission for increased funding for Rio off the back of Adrian Leat's silver meal and the two bronze won by Darcina Manuel and Moira de Villiers.

It will be up to other sports to start coming to the table over the remaining nine days of competition.

New Zealand's track and field campaign starts tonight in Scotland with shot put rivals Tom Walsh and Jacko Gill among the early competitors. The rugby sevens tournament comes to a climax tonight and tomorrow morning.

If New Zealand keeps chipping away at the Games goal with an average of just over three medals a day, the 600th is likely to fall on the last day of competition next Sunday.

Among those hoping to feature in finals that day are Nick Willis in the 1500m blue-ribbon event, the Silver Ferns in the netball final and the Black Sticks men's and women's hockey teams.

Sunday Star Times