London Olympics could be NZ's best - Ulmer

Top table: Gold-medal winning cyclist Sarah Ulmer with New Zealand running legend Dick Quax
Top table: Gold-medal winning cyclist Sarah Ulmer with New Zealand running legend Dick Quax

London 2012 has the potential to become this country's best Olympics ever, according to Kiwi cycling champion Sarah Ulmer.

Along with running legend Dick Quax, who won silver in the 5000m at the 1976 Montreal Games, Ulmer spoke at the Giesen Sports and Events Centre in Renwick on Monday night. Hosted by sports personality John McBeth, the highly-entertaining evening was part of a nationwide Games promotion by the ANZ Bank, one of the New Zealand Olympic team's principal sponsors.

A gold medal winner and world record-breaker in the 3000m individual pursuit at the 2004 Games in Athens, Ulmer said she was excited about the prospects of this year's New Zealand team.

"It's very exciting. I was at a fundraising dinner for the Olympic team last week and I didn't realise but of the [New Zealand] athletes that are going to the Olympics over 30 are in the top three in the world and previously we haven't got close to that. In terms of potential, it's never been in better shape."

She also felt the New Zealanders in her sport were in great shape and looking good for a swag of medals if they could perform to their capabilities.

"Purely based on potential, I think [the cycling team's] chances are better than ever before, but you just never know, because the Olympics is such a different beast than any other competition.

"It could go any way, but I think we are in far better shape now than we have been in any other Olympics in history."

While a number of NZ athletes had the opportunity to come home with a medal around their neck, most of the Kiwi team wouldn't get on the podium, but Ulmer said the experience of being a Kiwi in the Olympic environment was something they would remember forever.

"Competing is fun and exciting, but in terms of fond Olympic memories it would have to be the team spirit that is created.

"New Zealand has a pretty unique culture, a team culture that comes to the fore when you are overseas.

"The support team that they have now is amazing – the environment they create in a real Kiwi way is second to no other country in the world."

With two infant daughters, aged 2 1/2 and one, Cambridge-based Ulmer rarely hops on a bike these days and has little other involvement with cycling.

However, she is still involved in sport through her role with the anti-doping NZ Drug Agency and is also assisting a Waikato trust on a project to build a 70km riverside bike trail.

The Marlborough Express