Rob Waddell wants to focus on athletes

NEW MAN IN CHARGE: Rob Waddell has become New Zealand's 18th Olympic chef de mission, replacing outgoing Dave Currie.
NEW MAN IN CHARGE: Rob Waddell has become New Zealand's 18th Olympic chef de mission, replacing outgoing Dave Currie.

Rob Waddell's first public appearance as New Zealand Olympic Committee chef de mission pointed to a tenure of humility, hard work and helping athletes get the job done.

There was no grand analogy, no rhetorical references and no waffle from the 2000 Olympic single sculls champion after he was unveiled as new team leader yesterday for the Commonwealth and Olympic Games.

Waddell's ethos is performance-focused, wrapped in an affable personality.

The man he replaces, Dave Currie, was criticised during his decade in the job for focusing too heavily on Kiwiana and "window-dressing" while occasionally lacking consideration for the athletes' point of view.

Since Currie's term ended in the wake of an awkward London 2012 media storm and the infamous registration debacle experienced by reigning Olympic champion Valerie Adams, Waddell and 2004 Olympic triathlon champion Hamish Carter had both been tipped for the role, with many feeling the time was right for a younger, more athlete-focused approach.

As it turned out, Waddell and Carter were indeed the final two candidates, with the NZOC eventually plumping for the rower.

Initially, Waddell admits, applying for the job was not on the agenda until friends gave him a nudge.

However, having secured the role, the highly respected Olympian is clear on the desired execution.

"I'm really thrilled, it's an honour. A lot of trust has been placed in me and I want to do a good job," Waddell said.

"I feel I'm realistic and will know what our athletes are up against. It's a tough environment.

"I know what that feeling is like half an hour before an Olympic final. I know what it's like to win and I also know what it's like to be disappointed at the Games.

"The Olympics and Commonwealth Games are very short periods of time but critical parts of an athlete's career. What I want to do is make sure we do everything we can to create the best environment for them.

"It was something I hadn't thought of and about six months ago a couple of friends suggested I consider it.

"I looked at the criteria and thought it would be something I'd like to do. I'm very passionate about New Zealand sport.

"It's also a very good chance to give something back to New Zealand."

Since permanently retiring from rowing after his 2008 Olympic comeback, Waddell has remained active in sport with several projects, including grinder on Team New Zealand's America's Cup crew and playing a key role in the establishment of a new national high performance cycling centre.

Waddell will remain an active competitor with Team New Zealand with the 2013 calendar smiling kindly on scheduling and allowing him to cleanly juggle key dates across the jobs.

Arriving fresh off New Zealand's best-ever Olympic campaign, Waddell said he was keen to help the country drive further forward - which would involve discussing the role with previous chefs, including Currie.

"I'm really looking forward to talking to Dave. He's been a massive part of New Zealand sport of the last 10 years. Obviously, there were some issues there but so much of it went so well and I'd really like to learn from him," Waddell said.

"I feel privileged to come into a team which has gone really well in London.

"I feel immensely proud and I want to help our athletes be the best they can be." 

Fairfax Media