No surprises Waddell's making good fist of role

FRED WOODCOCK IN GLASGOW
Last updated 05:00 03/08/2014
HAPPY MAN: NZ team chef de mission Rob Waddell is delighted with their success so far in Glasgow, and hopes they are not done yet.
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RESPECTED: Rob Waddell has made a superb impression in his new role as NZ team chef de mission in Glasgow.

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As he did as a rower, Rob Waddell is making quite the impression as an administrator.

Waddell's CV as an athlete is unimpeachable, highlighted by his single sculls gold medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 - New Zealand's only gold of those Games - and two world championship titles.

Then there is also a trifecta of America's Cup yachting campaigns with Team New Zealand, and he played representative rugby for Waikato.

He's certainly no stranger to challenges on the sporting field, but he faced one of a different variety when he was named, in late 2012, to replace Dave Currie as chef de mission for New Zealand's Commonwealth and Olympic Games teams.

It was a seemingly canny appointment from the New Zealand Olympic Committee.

Currie had copped plenty of criticism; he was seen by many as a bit of a showboater (the haka count went through the roof in the latter stages of his tenure), while the coup de grace was the London Olympics fiasco that sawdefending shot put champion Val Adams left off the start list.

No such dramas in Glasgow, and certainly not compared to his Australian counterpart Steve Moneghetti who has had to deal with a weightlifter who spent 36 hours in police custody after headbutting a Welsh competitor, and the sending home of athletics coach Eric Hollingsworth after he publicly criticised star hurdler Sally Pearson.

Waddell is a friendly, courteous, details man who doesn't give much away but commands respect of those around him.

He talks a lot about team culture, being proud to represent New Zealand, being athlete-focused, and creating high performance environments.

Not sexy stuff from an outsider's point of view, but it's what athletes need.

And he understands exactly what they need because he's been there. He's competed and won, he's competed and lost; he's been a young athlete, he's been an old athlete.

Waddell is regularly seen at the events and makes sure the athletes know he's there to support them, and his methods don't include myriad haka that bordered on cringeworthy levels during the previous regime. In fact, the haka has barely been sighted during these Games.

But Waddell is at pains to stress the smoothly-run operation in Glasgow is a team effort and a result of the processes and planning that preceded his appointment.

''I'm just part of a team that includes operations, medical, media, athlete support staff, a cool group of people who work hard behind the scenes on very little sleep,'' Waddell says.

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''The NZOC is most visible during these two weeks, this is our core business, but years orplanning and preparation go into this and systems are in place that precede my time.

''For example, we're already a year-and-a-half into planning for the Rio Olympics. And you also notice that the individual sports that plan early are the ones that do well at these events.''

The proof has certainly been in the performance in Glasgow at these Commonwealth Games.

New Zealand's team of 232 athletes and an extra 120-odd officials has been making headlines for all the right reasons, and will end with a bumper medal haul.

''I'm really enjoying this,'' Waddell says. ''It's full on but so exciting."

- Stuff

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